Binge drinking is generally thought of as being part of the college scene. When heavy drinking is mentioned, we often think of college campuses and students partying on the weekends. It is a behavior typically 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 new study, conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Information, finds that 18 percent of males and 11 percent of females consume more alcoholic drinks than recommended in the federal dietary guidelines.
Published in a recent issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the study finds that 8 percent of males 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 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 utilized 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 at least 21 years of age. Among the topics covered was alcohol consumption, including a question that asked how much alcohol was consumed during 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 consumed five or more drinks 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.