Cannabis in America
New Study Finds Men Are More Likely to Smoke Marijuana Than Women
Thanks to the success of recent legalization efforts across the country, more American adults are now able to consume legal marijuana than ever before. But as usage statistics surge, researchers have found that their rates do vary along gender lines–men are significantly more likely to smoke marijuana than women.
Epidemiologists Hannah Carliner and Deborah S. Hasin conducted the study at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, and published the results online in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence. They found that compared to 2002, an estimated six million additional men and four million additional women reported past-year pot smoking in 2014.
For a number of years, users remained steady at about 13 percent of the adult male population and 7 percent of the adult female population; however, in 2007, prevalence increased by about 4 percent among men and 3 percent among women.
“These changes parallel national trends in decreased perceived harmfulness of marijuana use, and legalization of both recreational and medical use in over half of U.S. states,” said Dr. Carliner. “However, changes in attitudes and legality do not sufficiently explain why we observe a sharp increase in use in 2007, or why this increase was greater in men than in women.”
Interestingly, the study also found that the widening of the gap was driven by men with low incomes, and corresponded with the start of the Great Recession and rising unemployment rates in 2007. Between 2007 and 2014, marijuana use increased about 6 percent among men in households earning less than $20,000 annually, compared to only 2 percent of women in that group.
It’s easy to understand how financial pressure could cause more individuals to seek out marijuana, which is commonly used to relieve stress and help with anxiety.
“While an economic recovery began around 2012, it largely bypassed men in the low-income manufacturing and construction fields, where earning and employment rates remained low,” noted Dr. Carliner.
“Our findings are consistent with other recent national studies documenting increasing rates of disease and death related to substance use among middle-aged low socioeconomic status White Americans,” says Dr. Hasin.
Both researchers believe that documenting changes in drug use is important for public health planning as well as economic policy. They also believe that identifying such high risk periods and populations could help tailor future prevention efforts.