Few significant differences: Women in AA

Recovery is everywhereIn certain circles, it’s common to hear professionals and academics claim that 12 step groups are a poor referral option for women and minorities. We’ve addressed this before and there’s little question that women participate and benefit as much or more than men.

Here’s a new study looking at women in AA.

Background:  Given the widespread use of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other similar groups in the United States and the increasing membership of women, this study compares women with men on their meeting attendance and AA-prescribed behaviors, factors associated with that AA participation, and tests how these relate to women’s and men’s abstinence across time.

Methods:  All consecutive new admissions (age ≥ 18) from county-wide public and private treatment programs representing the larger population of treatment seekers were approached to be in the study at treatment entry. Those consenting at baseline (n = 926) were sought for follow-up interviews 1, 3, 5, and 7 years later. Generalized linear models were used to test whether various help-seeking factors were associated with AA participation differentially by gender and, controlling for AA and other confounders, whether women differ from men on abstinence.

Results:  At each follow-up interview, women and men attended AA at similar rates and similarly practiced specific AA behaviors, and they were alike on most factors associated with AA participation and abstention across time including abstinence goal, drink volume, negative consequences, prior treatment, and encouragement to reduce drinking. Relative to men, women with higher drug severity were less likely to participate in AA. Although higher AA participation was a predictor of abstinence for both genders, men were less likely to be abstinent across time. Men were also more likely to reduce their AA participation across time.

From the full article’s conclusions:

Our findings offer substantial justification for referring both female and male adults to AA. Clinicians should feel confident about making AA referrals to clients who are open to such groups.