Researchers found women’s binge drinking was given more coverage than men’s despite males consuming a greater amount of alcohol.
They also found stories tended to be biased and judgemental, focusing on the impact on women’s physical appearance and behaviour in public.
Researchers from the University of Glasgow and Glasgow Caledonian University, whose findings are published in the BMJ Open journal found newspapers presented female drinkers as haggard, vulnerable, physically incapacitated and socially transgressive.
There was also a tendency to characterise women as inconvenient burdens to their male drinking companions.
Chris Patterson, from the MRC/CSO social and public health sciences unit, University of Glasgow, said: “Media coverage of women’s binge drinking isn’t just about health or public disorder; it also performs a moralising, paternalistic role, reflecting broader social expectations about women’s public behaviour.
“As well as unfairly stigmatising women, media coverage of binge drinking is problematic in terms of communication information about a serious health issue to the public.”
Dr Carol Emslie, head of the substance use and misuse research group in the school of health and life sciences at Glasgow Caledonian University, who research co-author, said: “In the UK, men still drink more than women and are more likely to die from alcohol-related causes. However, the media’s disproportionate focus on women’s drinking, including the headlines and images used, may lead the public to think that it is primarily young females who are the problem drinkers.”
The study analysed 308 articles published over two years in seven UK newspapers.
MRC/CSO social and public health sciences unit is funded by the Medical Research Council and the Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office.