Gender disparity in addiction: an Italian epidemiological sketch



Introduction. Gender disparity in different fields of addiction such as tobacco smoking, alcohol use, drugs of abuse consumption and doping practice has been investigated in Italian population. Methods. We used the surveys and studies carried out for the above reported issues in recent years as revised by the “National Observatory on Tobacco smoke, Drugs of abuse, Alcohol and Doping” at Istituto Superiore di Sanità. Results. Concerning tobacco habit, the trend of smoking women has been in constant decrease from a 19.7% in 2010 to a 16.9% in 2015, differently from men who passed from a 23.9% in 2010 to a 25.1% in 2015 with a slight increase in the habit. With respect to alcohol, in the last five years an increasing trend of consumption has been observed in 18-24 years old women, with 53% drinking women in the age range of 18-19 years overcoming the 50.4% general female population. Generally speaking, a one to four ratio can be underlined in the percentage of elderly women with a risky alcohol consumption with respect to men, while in case of adolescents and young adults gender disparity is not so pronounced. Drug abuse still remains a prevalent male phenomenon. However, an increase in cannabis users for both genders has been reported with a prevalence of “once in the life” around 20%, although more pronounced in females (+2.66 percentage points for females vs +0.93 percentage points in male). With respect to cocaine, the secondmost consumed drug, a reduction in consumption has been recently observed mainly in female population (-42.1%) than in men one (-27.5%). Finally, there are significant gender differences in doping attitude and/or in doping profiling. First of all, males seem to be more exposed to doping than females The prohibited substances most frequently used by females athletes are “Diuretics and Masking Agents” (38.3% positive female vs 14% males) compared to males athletes who use mostly anabolic agents (20.1% males vs 11.2% females). Conclusions. Results presented for the different fields of addiction show that a gender disparity is apparent and that females are less prone in having an addiction behaviour, although the young generation seems to increase that tendency.

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Adele Minutillo

Roberta Pacifici

Giulia Scaravelli

Roberto De Luca

Ilaria Palmi

Claudia Mortali

Luisa Mastrobattista

Paolo Berretta

How to Cite
Minutillo, A., Pacifici, R., Scaravelli, G., De Luca, R., Palmi, I., Mortali, C., … Berretta, P. (2016). Gender disparity in addiction: an Italian epidemiological sketch. Annali dell’Istituto Superiore Di Sanità, 52(2), 176–183. Retrieved from
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