The present study evaluates the relationship of different alcohol consumption levels to blood pressure among women. Blood pressure values were compared between four groups of women consuming different amounts of alcohol. Three groups were formed from the middle-aged female population participating in a health survey (n = 219): 15 consecutive alcohol abstainers, 136 consecutive moderate drinkers, and 68 consecutive heavy drinkers. Also, 78 consecutive female alcoholics reporting for treatment were included, forming the fourth group. The prevalence of systolic blood pressure > or = 160 mm Hg did not increase in relation to alcohol consumption. In contrast, the percentage of women showing diastolic blood pressure > or = 90 mm Hg clearly increased (p = 0.004) from abstainers (7%) to moderate drinkers (18%), to heavy drinkers (32%), and to alcoholics (37%). The highest blood pressure values were found among heavy drinkers. Compared with abstainers, the mean difference in systolic blood pressure was -12 mm Hg, with a 95% confidence interval from -2 to -23 mm Hg. For diastolic blood pressure, the difference was -6 mm Hg with a 95% confidence interval from 1 to -13 mm Hg. Among alcoholics, the blood pressure values had returned essentially to normal after 4 days of abstinence. It is concluded that alcohol consumption increases both systolic and diastolic blood pressure values among women. However, only diastolic blood pressure values increase enough to be clinically significant. Moderately elevated diastolic blood pressure, combined with normal systolic blood pressure, might thus be a possible sign of alcohol abuse among women. Abstinence should be emphasized as an inexpensive and rapidly effective treatment for mild hypertension among female alcohol abusers.