WOMEN in their thirties and forties use alcohol to deliver a quick 'time out' from the demands of their jobs and the drudgery of domestic chores, new research has found.

Researchers who talked to women in Glasgow found that women entering midlife feel that drinking helps them assert their identities beyond their day to day roles and responsibilities, and can act as a 'release valve' or the pressures of everyday life.

And mothers with young children say that a night out drinking with friends can be 'transformative' and help them recaprture the care-free spirit of their pre-baby days.

The study, by Glasgow Caledonian University, was conducted among groups of friends in Glasgow aged between 30 and 50.

Mothers of older children discussed how they had cut back the amount of alcohol they drank when their children were young, but how they were now able to drink as their children became more independent.

However, all women emphasised that they organised their drinking around childcare and paid employment responsibilities.

Dr Carol Emsli, Leader of the Substance Use and Misuse Research Group in Glasgow Caledonian University's Institute for Applied Health Research, led the research.

She said: "Our research shows that women in midlife view drinking as a quick and convenient way to achieve 'time out' from work and domestic responsibilities. Given women's busy lives at this life-stage, it is not surprising that alcohol is seen as an obvious way to relax and connect with others.

"However, while acknowledging the pleasures of drinking with partners and friends, it is important that we identify other ways in which women achieve 'time out' without alcohol, such as exercising or socialising without drinking".

Her colleague Professor Kate Hunt, of the Social & Public Health Sciences Unit at the University of Glasgow, added: "These findings reflect how alcohol advertising and other images of drinking have so effectively linked drinking with reward and relaxation.

"While recognising that many people enjoy relaxing with a drink, we need to be wary that images portrayed in the media and entertainment industry do not make alcohol seem essential to relaxation and enjoyment in today's culture for women in midlife, or indeed for people at any stage of life."