TUESDAY, Jan. 10 (HealthDay News) -- An estimated 38 million American adults are binge drinkers -- defined as men who down five or more drinks at a sitting and women who consume four or more drinks at one time, federal researchers reported Tuesday.
Of the 17 percent of Americans who engage in binge drinking, most are 18 to 24 years old. But those 65 and older engage in the practice more often, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And those numbers may underestimate the scope of the problem, officials said.
"Binge drinking remains a common and largely unrecognized public health problem," Ursula Bauer, director of CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, said during a midday news conference.
What's more, binge drinking accounts for more than 40,000 of the 80,000 alcohol-related deaths each year in the country, and represents about 75 percent of the more than $200 billion in costs from alcohol abuse, the researchers reported.
"This level of consumption usually leads to impairment and is strongly associated with alcohol-impaired driving, risky sexual behavior and interpersonal violence," Bauer said. "Over time, it can also increase the risk of serious health problems, including cancer, heart disease and liver failure."
For the study, CDC researchers looked at 2010 data on binge drinking. The researches found that about 17 percent of Americans are binge drinkers, and they binge drink more than four times a month, usually drinking nearly eight drinks each time.
Most binge drinkers (28.2 percent) are 18 to 24, and they drink the most -- more than nine drinks each time, according to the report.
But it's those aged 65 and over who binge drink most often -- nearly six times a month, the researchers found.
"We know this to be a substantial underestimate of what actual binge drinking is, b
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