More and more professional women, trying to keep up with male colleagues on their career paths, are consuming alcohol in dangerous amounts, a European study has found.

Women with a university education, faced with a pervasive macho workplace drinking culture, are more likely to indulge in behaviors such as binge drinking than less-educated counterparts, a report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development says.

The problem of heavy drinking among professional women in an effort to keep up with men is the most serious in Britain, according to the report on drinking in the OECD's 34 member countries.

In England, one in five women holding a university degree regularly drinks to excess, compared with just one in 10 women with a lower educational level, the report's researchers found.

That trend is evidence of "the dark side of equality" that has seen middle-class professional women risking their health by taking on traditional male drinking habits, says Mark Pearson, OECD head of health.

"You have seen women moving to areas which were traditionally male and were traditionally drinking professions," he says, offering the financial sector as an example.

"As women have moved in to those professions they have adopted the patterns that were there for men."

The highest rates of hazardous drinking behavior were in women aged 45 to 64, the report says.

Average levels of alcohol consumed in the United Kingdom are around 12 percent higher than the average for OECD member countries, it found.

The OECD also found a worrying increase in hazardous drinking among the young.

"Many countries have experienced a significant increase in some risky drinking behaviors," the report said.

Key factors in the increase are alcohol becoming more easily obtainable, more affordable and more heavily advertised, the report authors said.

Governments hoping to combat binge drinking and other examples of alcohol abuse have a number of policy options, the report points out, such as counseling for heavy drinkers and increased enforcement of drunk driving laws.

Raising taxes and prices on alcohol and stepping up the regulation of its marketing and advertising have also been proven as successful tactics to deal with the issues, it says.

"The cost to society and the economy of excessive alcohol consumption around the world is massive, especially in OECD countries," OECD secretary-general Angel Gurria said in Paris as the report was made public.

"This report provides clear evidence that even expensive alcohol abuse prevention policies are cost-effective in the long run and underlines the need for urgent action by governments."

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