About 37 million adult Americans engage in the practice of binge drinking, consuming over 17 billion drinks during these “binges” in 2015. This was the main takeaway from a new study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which claimed to be the first of its kind to detail statistics on the potentially dangerous practice.
According to the CDC’s study, about a sixth of U.S. adults binge drink about once per week, consuming approximately 470 drinks annually per person, or seven drinks per binge on average. That’s significantly more than the official definition of binge drinking, which is at least five drinks for men, or at least four drinks for women, within an approximate span of two hours.
The study also noted that people in the 18-to-34 age range went on binges more frequently, but more than half of all binge drinks consumed annually in the U.S. were consumed by people aged 35-years-old and above. Men consumed about 80 percent of all binge drinks, while those from lower household incomes and educational levels were more likely to binge drink than people who earn more and reached a higher educational level.
In a statement, CDC lead researcher Dr. Robert Brewer said that the trend is a disturbing one, as it offers further proof that binge drinkers in the U.S. might be putting themselves and other people at risk with their practice.
“The findings also show the importance of taking a comprehensive approach to prevent binge drinking, focusing on reducing both the number of times people binge drink and the amount they drink when they binge.”
A report from ABC News explained the methodologies used by the CDC in the new study, as the agency’s researchers, for the first time, collected data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. This is a phone-based survey that interviews adults about their risky behaviors, including their drinking habits.
About 400,000 participants, including underage drinkers in the 18-to-2o age range, were asked several questions in the survey, such as how often they drank, how many drinks they consumed on average, and the most number of drinks they consumed in one sitting. When the numbers were tallied and extrapolated to the entire U.S. population, the researchers discovered the extent of America’s binge drinking problem in 2015, as U.S. adults consumed about 17.5 billion binge drinks that year.
As stated in the CDC’s news release, binge drinking can potentially result in a number of risky actions, including dangerous driving, violence against other people, and irresponsible sexual behavior. The health agency added that binge drinking in the U.S. has caused over half of America’s 88,000 alcohol-related deaths per year, and about three-fourths of the damages linked to excessive drinking, which are estimated at around $249 billion.
With the above figures in mind, CDC researcher Brewer said that there are several strategies that officials can utilize in order to curb the problem of binge drinking. He said that U.S. officials could increase alcohol taxes, restrict the number of days or hours in which establishments can sell alcohol, hold businesses culpable for illegally serving underage or intoxicated customer, and place limits on the number of outlets that could sell alcohol in a given location. The CDC news release also cited the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which suggested that healthcare providers could use alcohol screening and intervention as tools that could be used in dealing with binge drinking.