Among adults classified as binge drinkers, their bingeing appears to have intensified over time, federal survey data indicated.
The number of drinks consumed each year by individuals whose self-reported drinking habits put them in the “binge drinker” category increased 12% from 2011 to 2017, said Dafna Kanny, PhD, of the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion in Atlanta, and colleagues.
Overall, the annual number of drinks consumed by binge drinkers jumped from 472 to 529 from 2011 through 2017, the researchers wrote in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Total drinks consumed per year increased significantly for both women (from 256 to 290) and men (from 587 to 666), the analysis showed.
“Adults who binge drink are consuming more binge drinks over time,” said Marissa Esser, PhD, a health scientist at the CDC’s Alcohol Consumption Program in Atlanta, who was not involved in this study. She noted that previous research found that 37 million adults reported binge drinking once a week in 2015, consuming an average of seven drinks per occasion. In addition, she said, the rising number of binge drinks consumed “highlights that little progress has been made in reducing binge drinking among adults.”
Binge drinking is the most common, yet fatal, pattern of excessive alcohol use in the U.S. This type of alcohol consumption is defined by the National Institutes of Health as drinking that raises blood alcohol concentration to 0.08% or above. In the current study and most other federal reports, it’s consuming five or more drinks during a single session for men, and four or more for women, during the past 30 days.
CDC data show that binge drinking can be responsible for a variety of health issues, including injuries from falls or car crashes, violence or abuse, poor pregnancy outcomes, or alcohol dependence.
In the new study, Kanny and co-authors analyzed Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) data, collected monthly by phone survey. The BRFSS asks respondents how many times in the past month they drank at the levels defined as bingeing, as well as the largest number of drinks they had on one occasion that month. The researchers then multiplied the respondent’s monthly bingeing total by 12 to estimate the yearly total. Multiplying that by the respondent’s maximum number of drinks consumed on any one occasion yielded estimates of total drinks consumed in binge sessions per year.
The sample size ranged from around 441,000 to 506,000 during the study period. Response rates were in the range of 46%-50%.
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