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Typical Binge Drinker Is Young White Male

Half of alcohol-linked deaths are tied to bouts of excessive consumption, CDC notes

THURSDAY, April 2 (HealthDay News) -- Binge drinking in the United States is most common among whites, males, people ages 18 to 34, and those who make $50,000 or more a year, according to a study released Thursday.

The study defined binge drinking as having five or more drinks on one occasion.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) researchers also found that binge drinkers reported an average of four binge episodes per month, and consumed an average of eight drinks per binge, ranging from 9.8 drinks per binge among those ages 18 to 24 to 6.4 drinks per binge for those age 65 and older.

The analysis of data included almost 63,000 people from 14 states who took part in the 2004 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey. Among the other findings:

  • Binge drinking was most common among whites (17.5 percent), men (24.3 percent), and those ages 18-24 (27.4 percent) and those ages 25-34 (24.4 percent).
  • Binge drinkers who were black or American Indian/Alaska Native binge drank more frequently (4.9 times per month) than binge drinkers of other ethnic/racial populations.
  • Binge drinkers who were black had a higher intensity (8.4 drinks per binge) than Hispanics (8.1 drinks per binge) or whites (6.9 drinks per binge).
  • In terms of income, binge drinking was most common among those with annual household incomes of $50,000 or more. But after adjusting for sex and age, the study found that binge drinkers with lower household incomes (less than $25,000) had the highest number of binge drinking episodes during the preceding 30 days.
  • In general, binge drinkers in all socio-demographic groups engaged in this behavior frequently and at levels that exceeded the dangerous five-drink binge threshold by an average of about 60 percent.

The study was released Thursday in the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The authors urged widespread implementation of effective population-based interventions to prevent excessive and binge drinking, such as: maintaining and enforcing the minimum legal drinking age of 21; increasing alcohol taxes; decreasing the number of alcohol outlets in certain areas; and increasing screening and counseling for alcohol abuse.

Each year between 2001 and 2005, binge drinking caused 43,731 (54.9 percent) of the estimated 79,646 alcohol-attributable deaths in the United States, according to the study.

More information

The CDC has more about binge drinking.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, news release, April 2, 2009

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