The differences, researchers believe, show areas in which men and women can focus their efforts to achieve greater recovery.
Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital analyzed data from more than 1,700 participants in the Project MATCH trial who attended A.A. meetings along with other approaches to treatment. Of those participants, 24% were female.
John F. Kelly, PhD and Bettina B. Hoeppner, PdD, authors of the study, looked at the participants' success in maintaining sobriety, but also at the behavior changes that supported successful A.A. participation.
The study was reportedly the first to examine whether the benefits of A.A. were different for men and women. Their findings include:
- For both men and women, A.A. increased their confidence in the ability to cope with high-risk drinking situations and increased their sober social contacts.
- For men, the ability to cope with high-risk social situations where people are likely to be drinking was more important. This was not a big factor for women.
- For women, learning how to avoid drinking when they felt sad, depressed or anxious was most important. This factor was almost absent in men.
The study found that the above benefits not only helped men and women maintain abstinence, but also to limit the number of drinks they had if they did have a relapse.
"In terms of alcoholism recovery more generally, we found the ability to handle negative moods and emotions was important for women but not for men," Kelly said in a news release. "Conversely, coping with high-risk social situations - which could be attending sports or other events where people are likely to drink - was important for men but not women."
The authors suggest that finding alternative ways to cope with negative emotions would benefit women in recovery, while focusing on coping with high-risk social occasions would enhance the recovery of men.
Source: Kelly, JF, et al. "Does Alcoholics Anonymous work differently for men and women? A moderated multiple-mediation analysis in a large clinical sample." Drug and Alcohol Dependence 30 November 2012
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