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CDC report highlights prevalence of binge drinking

Tuesday January 10, 2012
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More than 38 million U.S. adults binge-drink an average of four times a month, consuming as many as eight drinks on average, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although binge drinking is more common among young adults ages 18 to 34, according to the report, those 65 and older who report binge drinking do so more often — an average of five to six times a month.

Binge drinking is more common among those with household incomes of $75,000 or more, but the largest number of drinks consumed per occasion — eight to nine on average — is significantly higher among binge drinkers with household incomes of less than $25,000.

Binge drinking is defined as consuming four or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men on an occasion. Binge drinkers also put themselves and others at risk for many health and social problems, including car crashes, other unintentional injuries, violence, liver disease, certain cancers, heart disease, sexually transmitted diseases and both unintended and alcohol-exposed pregnancies, according to the report.

Drinking too much, including binge drinking, causes more than 80,000 deaths in the United States each year, making it the third leading preventable cause of death, according to the report. It also was responsible for more than $223.5 billion in economic costs in 2006. More than half these deaths result from injuries that disproportionately involve young people.

"Binge drinking causes a wide range of health, social and economic problems and this report confirms the problem is really widespread," CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, said in a news release. "We need to work together to implement proven measures to reduce binge drinking at national, state and community levels."

Adult binge drinking is most common in the Midwest, New England, the District of Columbia, Alaska and Hawaii, according to the report. However, binge drinkers consume more drinks in the southern part of the Mountain states (Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah), the Midwest and some states where binge drinking is less common, including Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina.

CDC scientists analyzed data on self-reports of binge drinking within the past 30 days for about 458,000 U.S. adults ages 18 years and older. The data were in the 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and included about 36,000 cell-phone respondents.

The report appears in the January edition of Vital Signs, a CDC publication that runs monthly online. To read it, visit www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns.


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