Research looking at "whether women engage and benefit from AA as much as men have found that women become as, or more, involved, as their male counterparts, and also benefit as much or more than men", but may have differing ways in which they get help from AA. In a recent study(Kelly, JF, et al. (2013). Does Alcoholics Anonymous work differently for men and women? A moderated multiple-mediation analysis in a large clinical sample." Drug and Alcohol Dependence, Volume 130, Issues 1–3, 1 June 2013, Pages 186–193), researchers found in a study of over 1700 men and women attending AA meetings the following:

1) The Fellowship or social, non-drinking relationships were significant in men's recovery. "AA may help men more by facilitating reductions in high risk drinkers in favor of new sober friends while simultaneously boosting ability to cope with what may be more commonly encountered “male-specific” high risk situations (e.g., when attending or watching sporting events at friends’ homes…). While these mechanisms also appear to be some of the ways in which women benefit from AA, for women these risky social contexts may be less frequently encountered, and, consequently, women do not benefit as much in this way. …the majority of the effect of AA on reducing drinking intensity for men was by facilitating recovery-supportive social-changes and may reflect the greater need for men to find new ways of coping with common social risks.

2) The social aspects (or Fellowship) of AA were less important for recovering women. For women the ability to handle feelings of depression, anxiety, loneliness was more important than learning to deal with high risk social situations without drinking.

The researchers concluded: "Viewed more broadly, these findings suggest there may be gender-related differences in relapse precipitants with women generally more susceptible to negative affect and men more susceptible to cue-induced social precursors." In other words, women in recovery need to learn to deal with negative feelings without drinking, more so than men. The latter, according to this study, seem to need more social support to handle situations that may invite relapse, such as a football or baseball game, or eating crabs. As always, comments are invited. Jan Edward Williams, 07/22/2013.


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