Binge Drinking Grows Up: Surprising Statistics

Who among us binge drinks the most? Before you go blaming the college students entirely, time to point a finger at someone new. According to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study, white men with an above average salary also binge drink like fraternity boys.

Binge drinking is a leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. and causes more than half of the 79,000 excessive drinking related deaths between 2001 and 2005. Binge drinking is defined as consuming five or more alcoholic drinks within two hours for males and four or more drinks within two hours for females.

The CDC recently issued a report detailing data on the prevalence of alcohol use and binge drinking among adults and high school kids from two major phone surveys. Landline responses are not considered representative of the younger population who tend to rely on cell phones instead, so binge drinking among this group may have been underreported.

More than 400,000 people responded by landline phones and more than 15,500 (mostly young adults) responded by cell phones. Among adults age 18 and over interviewed by landline phones, the prevalence of binge drinking was 15.2 percent. Maybe it’s that bad reception and those dropped calls causing people with cellular phones to binge drink.

The prevalence among those interviewed by cell phones was 20.6 percent. Overall, binge drinking was highest among:

  • Men (20.7 vs. 10 percent in women)
  • Those age 18 to 24 (25 percent)
  • Caucasians
  • Those with annual household incomes greater than $75,000

Among high school students, 41.8 percent reported using alcohol (consumed at least one drink in the previous month) and nearly one-quarter reported binge drinking. Binge drinking was twice as high among high school seniors as among freshmen.  This report confirms what previous reports have found: high school students not only drink, they often drink to the point of excess or intoxication.

Although binge drinkers may consume the same number of drinks per month as regular moderate drinkers, drinking to intoxication has a number of especially dangerous consequences.

Over the last 17 years, the prevalence of binge drinking has not changed in adults, and has only dropped slightly among high school aged boys. The authors of the report point out that binge drinking is not typically thought to be as great a health risk as obesity or smoking, and little effort has been put into prevention for this serious public health concern.

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