Gender Differences in AA Benefits

AA meeting sign
AA meeting sign (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


A recent study reported that men and women benefit from AA in different ways:


For both men and women, participation in AA increased confidence in the ability to cope with high-risk drinking situations and increased the number of social contacts who supported recovery efforts. But the effect of both of those changes on the ability to abstain from drinking was about twice as strong for men as for women. In contrast, women benefitted much more than men from improved confidence in their ability to abstain during times when they were sad or depressed. “It is striking that this effect was virtually absent in men while it was a major contributor to women’s ability to remain abstinent and to limit the number of drinks they consumed when they did drink,” says Hoeppner. Several factors that helped to reduce the intensity of drinking in men – such as less depression and fewer friends who encouraged drinking – did not appear to be as important for helping women.

Kelly says,”AA helps both men and women stay sober following treatment by enhancing sober social networks and boosting confidence in coping with high-risk social situations. In terms ofalcoholism recovery more generally, we found the ability to handle negative moods and emotions was important for women but not for men. 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. These differences suggests that, for women, finding alternative ways to cope with negative emotions may yield recovery benefits, while among men, a greater focus on coping with social occasions that feature drinking may enhance recovery.



7 thoughts on “Gender Differences in AA Benefits

      1. The affiliation to a hospital doesn’t diminish anything. In fact, it SHOULD enhance it. However, Them being “hospital investigators/researchers” Instead of actual doctors, psychologist or even a scientist makes me think twice.

      2. Dr. John F. Kelly is President Elect of the Society of Addiction Psychology of the American Psychological Association, an Associate Professor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Director of the Addiction Recovery Management Service at the Masschusetts General Hospital, and a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in the treatment of alcohol and other drug addiction and related problems.

        Bettina Hoeppner, Ph.D. is a psychiatrist and an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School

  1. Really interesting research. I’m not personally a fan of the AA recovery model, but I wonder if the findings of this research may have implications for other treatments, especially CBT since it’s focus is on developing coping mechanisms for social situations/triggers and dealing with negative emotions associated with addiction.

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