Americans Are Still Drinking Too Much, USDA Says
Binge drinking is generally thought of as part of the college scene. When heavy drinking is mentioned, images often relate to college campuses and partying on the weekend. It is a behavior associated with young adults breaking free of the strict rules enforced at home by their parents.
A recent study shows that it is not only college students who are participating in binge drinking. In fact, college students do not even represent the highest levels of binge drinking.
The study, conducted by he U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Center for Nutrition Policy and Information, finds that 18 percent of men and 11 percent of women consume more alcohol than recommended by the federal dietary guidelines.
Men vs. Women
The study, published in a recent issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, also finds that 8 percent of males and 3 percent of females are heavy drinkers. While the findings also show that most Americans are reporting responsible choices about alcohol, staying within the two-drinks-per-day limit recommended by the federal guidelines, those who binge drink are a serious public health concern.
Lead author Patricia Guenther, a nutritionist at the center, notes that most adults do not drink any alcohol on any particular day, but the number of those who drink to excess is important. The study was designed to find out how many Americans followed the dietary guidelines from the USDA
The researchers used a national survey that provided a representative sample. The survey focused on topics of nutrition and health and was administered to approximately 5,400 adults who were all at least 21 years of age. Among the topics covered was alcohol consumption, including a question that asked how much alcohol was consumed the previous day.
Most respondents reported drinking no alcohol at all, at a rate of 64 percent for males and 79 percent for females. In addition, 18 percent of men and 10 percent of women drank alcohol, but the consumption remained within the guidelines.
However, 8 percent of the male respondents reported consuming five or more drinks per day and 3 percent of women consumed four or more drinks.
The findings concern experts because when individuals regularly drink more than the recommended amounts, there is an increased risk for alcohol-related health problems. Long-term associations include an increased risk of certain cancers and liver disease, but a single instance of binge drinking can result in an injury or a motor vehicle accident.
The heaviest drinkers among males were not college-age men, but instead were between the ages of 31 and 50. For women, the heaviest drinkers were between 51 and 70 years old.
The findings highlight the need for binge drinking awareness among all age groups. Binge drinking is not a college-only activity.