Drinking a beer or two is how a lot of us unwind after a rough day at the office. And drinking heavily? Well, that was college — and more than a few sloshed Saturday nights and boozy bachelorette parties ever since. But a new study says that Americans — women especially — are overdoing it with the booze in frightening numbers.
According to the CDC, heavy drinking is defined as consuming eight or more drinks per week for women; for men, it’s 15 or more drinks. Binge drinking means drinking four or more drinks on a single occasion for women, and five or more for men. The study, published Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health, found that between 2005 and 2012, heavy drinking among Americans rose 17.2%, Kaiser Health News reports. Women made up a large part of that increase, with the rate of binge drinking among women nationwide increasing more than seven times than that of men during the timeframe.
The research, which was done by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington and included data on about 3.7 million Americans 21 and older, was the first to look at drinking patterns on a county level, as well as nationwide. By analyzing individual counties’ drinking habits, they found that Menominee, Wisconsin, had the highest rate of binge drinking in 2012 at 36% and Madison County, Idaho, had the lowest at 6%. (We’re going to go ahead and guess those Wisconsin winters may have a little bit to do with that one.)
Researchers found good news in the data, as well: The percentage of people who drink any alcohol hasn’t changed much. Those who already drink just seem to be drinking even more.
Public health experts offer a few reasons for the changes:
- It’s now more acceptable socially for women to drink “like men do.”
- Young people are more likely to drink, and people with more money can afford to drink more, so young, wealthy professionals in cities like San Francisco have added to the spike.
- Taxes on alcohol haven’t risen the same way prices have, so technically booze are cheaper than before.
- Alcohol advertising has increased significantly in the past decade.
- Alcohol policies have loosened up a bit throughout the country.
The impact of our increasingly-boozy behavior has serious repercussions. “Excessive alcohol use led to approximately 88,000 deaths and 2.5 million years of potential life lost (YPLL) each year in the United States from 2006–2010,” the CDC reports. It also estimates the costs of excessive alcohol consumption in 2006 to be at $223.5 billion. Makes you really think, again, how much money you could save for more important things if you stopped after one drink, right?