Alcohol Consumption at an All-Time High

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The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle has conducted a study to examine rates of drinking from the years 2002 to 2012, and the rate of heavy drinking from 2005 to 2012 in every U.S. county; what was found was that consumption of alcohol is at an all time high.

The results found that drinking prevalence has increased. Certain counties experienced as much as a 78 percent consumption rate and as little as 11 percent.

The study has shown heavy drinking increased 17.2 percent from the years 2005 to 2012. Heavy drinking is defined for women as more than one drink per day, and for men, more than two per day.

According to Rhonda Jones-Webb, an alcohol expert at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health in Minneapolis, people are drinking more frequently, but the amount consumed each time has decreased. However, the rise in the number of people binge drinking is the most significant, because that rate has risen the most. Binge drinking is defined for women as consuming more than four drinks in a session and for men more than five drinks in a session within a month.

The University of Texas School of Public Health and the University of North Texas Health Science Center compared data from two surveys – one from the early 1990s and the other from the early 2000s. What they found was that the people who drank the most were men. In total, everyone drinks more, but the rate in which women drank increased more than the rate in which men drank.

Recent studies have shown that drinking habits in women in general are more similar to that of men. Binge drinking rose significantly among women between 2005 and 2012  – by 17.5 percent. Binge drinking in men rose only 4.9 percent, where it is now is an all time high of alcohol consumption.

A little more than 8 percent of Americans were considered to be heavy drinkers, while more than 18 percent were considered binge drinkers. According to Dr. Deborah Dawson, Ph.D, a staff scientist at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, people need to focus attention on preventative measures aimed at binge drinking.

Heavy drinking can cause various health effects, and binge drinkers face that as well as damage to their livelihood. According to Dr. Ali Mokdad of the Institute for Metrics and Evaluation in an interview with NBC News, three things affect people’s tendency to drink and the quantity consumed. One of the three factors are socioeconomic factors. For example, people who are educated and want to have a good time drink. However, people with less education tend to binge drink.

Availability is another factor. Due to there being more outlets selling alcohol and more of them next to each other, people can barhop.

Mokdad explains the third factor is social norms. To celebrate an occasion or holiday, people tend to drink. Drinking is prevelant when things are prosperous, and when money is tight.

Dr. George Koob, the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, told NBC News that the percentage of college drinking has greatly increased. However, it is not the amount of people in college that has increased, rather it is the amount of alcohol each college student is drinking.

Koob explained that certain factors limit alcohol consumption, such as taxes, laws which hold bars and restaurants responsible for over-serving patrons, and screening for alcohol dependency, also at an all time high.

By Jacob Dowd


NBC News



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Photo by Melissa O’Donohue – Creativecommons License