A new study seeks to elucidate disparities in the binge drinking habits of U.S. adults.

To its authors’ knowledge, the study by Dafna Kanny, PhD, and her coinvestigators is the first to assess total binge drinks consumed, in contrast with other studies that have assessed prevalence alone. This total binge drinks consumed measure is calculated by multiplying the intensity of drinking (greatest number of drinks consumed on one binge-drinking occasion) by the frequency of binge drinking.

Using this measure, Dr. Kanny and her coinvestigators found that 17.1% of U.S. adults reported consuming 17.5 billion total binge drinks, or 470 binge drinks per binge drinker in 2015.

The measure also led to insight into drinking patterns among different U.S. demographic groups. For example, while binge drinking was more common among people aged 18-34 years, half of all binge drinks were consumed by people older than 35 years – which reinforces the notion that binge drinking is a lifelong issue. The researchers also found that, while binge drinking was less common among people with lower incomes and educational attainment, they consumed a higher “total annual number of binge drinks per binge drinker” than did people with higher incomes and educational attainment, Dr. Kanny, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and her coinvestigators, reported in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

In addition to finding disparities among demographic groups, the investigators found disparities between different geographical regions of the country. “The highest annual number of total binge drinks per drinker was reported in Arkansas (841.0), Mississippi (831.8), Kentucky (652.8), and Hawaii (611.7),” they wrote. “Notably, total annual binge drinks per binge drinker and per adult were generally higher in the Mississippi River Valley than in other regions.”

Assessing binge-drinking prevalence alone does not capture some disparities in binge-drinking behavior, the coinvestigators concluded. “Monitoring total binge drinks consumed annually and total binge drinks per binge drinker” could not only overcome those limitations but also help implement approaches to reducing binge drinking and alcohol-related harms.

Dr. Kanny and her coinvestigators reported that their findings “do not necessarily represent the official position” of the CDC. They reported no financial disclosures.

SOURCE: Kanny D et al. Am J Prev Med. 2018;54(4):486-96 .


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