Although binge drinking often is not recognized as a womens health problem, nearly 14 million women in the United States binge-drink about three times a month, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those women consume an average of six drinks during a binge.
Binge drinking puts women at increased risk for many health problems, including breast cancer, sexually transmitted disease, heart disease and unintended pregnancy, according to the report. Pregnant women who binge-drink expose a developing baby to high levels of alcohol, which can lead to fetal alcohol spectrum disorders and sudden infant death syndrome.
About one in eight women and one in five high school girls report binge drinking, according to the report. Binge drinking was most common among women ages 18 to 34 and high school girls; whites and Hispanics; and women with household incomes of $75,000 or more. Half of all high school girls who drink alcohol report binge drinking.
For women and girls, binge drinking is defined as consuming four or more drinks on an occasion. Excessive drinking, including binge drinking, causes about 23,000 deaths among women and girls in the United States each year, according to the report.
“Binge drinking causes many health problems, and there are proven ways to prevent excessive drinking,” CDC Director Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, said in a news release. “Effective community measures can support women and girls in making wise choices about whether to drink or how much to drink if they do.”
CDC scientists looked at the drinking behavior of approximately 278,000 U.S. women ages 18 and older for the past 30 days through data collected from the 2011 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, and for approximately 7,500 U.S. high school girls from the 2011 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
The report highlights the “Guide to Community Preventive Services,” which recommends effective policies to prevent binge drinking.
“It is alarming to see that binge drinking is so common among women and girls, and that women and girls are drinking so much when they do,” said Robert Brewer, MD, MSPH, of the CDCs Alcohol Program. “The good news is that the same scientifically proven strategies for communities and clinical settings that we know can prevent binge drinking in the overall population can also work to prevent binge drinking among women and girls.”
The report appears in the January issue of Vital Signs and is available as a fact sheet at www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/bingedrinkingfemale/index.html.
For more information about binge drinking: www.cdc.gov/alcohol.
To receive assistance from the national Drug and Alcohol Treatment Referral Routing Service: Call 800-662-HELP.
For state-specific estimates of alcohol-related deaths and years of potential life lost by condition, age and gender: http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/DACH_ARDI/Default/Default.aspx.