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Women do not experience alcohol problems or alcoholism earlier than men, but seek treatment four to five years sooner, a new study concludes. Women with alcohol problems request help after an average of 10 years, compared with 15 years for men.

The study included 274 men and 257 women in substance abuse treatment facilities. Both men and women started drinking regularly in their late teens, and said their drinking problems began in their early 20s, HealthDay reports.

“Historically, alcoholism has been considered a ‘male disease’ due to its markedly higher prevalence among men,” study author Ben Lewis of the University of Florida said in a journal news release. “More recently it has been recognized that while men may have a higher prevalence, women may be uniquely vulnerable to negative consequences of chronic drinking.”

According to Rosemary Fama of Stanford University School of Medicine and SRI International, who was not involved in the study, women may see alcohol-related problems as less of a social stigma than men. They may be more willing to admit they have a problem and need professional help.

The study appears in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

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