Binge Drinking in the United States

Binge drinking is usually associated with college parties and young single men. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), provides evidence that binge drinking is also a common occurrence among older adults.

The report shows that binge drinking is more common than previous studies have indicated and the adults most often participating are over the age of 65. Approximately 17 percent of the national population engaged in binge drinking, which equates to one in six people.

The report gives a definition for binge drinking as the consumption of at least five alcoholic drinks in a single sitting for males and at least four drinks in a single sitting for women.

The CDC’s Vital Signs report includes information for 2010, and the results of the study show that there is an increased level of binge drinking, up from 15 percent of American adults. The rate had held constant for over 15 years.

Most commonly participating in binge drinking are young adults aged 18 to 34 years. Adults who reported the most frequent binge drinking, however, were over the age of 65. Older adults indicated that they engaged in binge drinking 5.5 times in each month. By contrast, other adults who reported binge drinking did so about four times per month.

Young adults aged 18 to 24 years had the largest percentage of binge drinkers at 28.2 percent and reported consuming the most alcoholic beverages in a binge drinking session at 9.3 drinks.

CDC substance abuse and mental health services administrator Pamela Hyde explained in the report that not only does the behavior of adults have a significant effect on public health, but it also provides an example to youth under the legal drinking age about what they should expect alcohol-related choices to look like.

Hyde says that in order to prevent long-term problems for future generations of legal-age drinkers, there needs to be a change in the adults who are currently binge drinking.

The information for the report was collected by conducting a phone survey in 48 states. One important change to the survey this year was the inclusion of cell phone surveys, which may have increased participation by younger adults.

The report also included information about the consequences related to binge drinking. For instance, binge drinking results in over half of the 80,000 deaths connected to excessive drinking. The economic impact of binge drinking is significant as well, with the majority of the $223.5 billion related to excessive drinking tied to binge drinking.