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Women's Health USA 2013 An illustrated collection of current and historical data, published annually.

Alcohol Use

Narrative

Ethyl alcohol is an intoxicating ingredient found in beer, wine, and liquor which is produced by the fermentation of yeast, sugars, and starches. While moderate alcohol consumption may have some health benefits1—depending, in part, on the characteristics of the person consuming the alcohol—excessive drinking can lead to many adverse health and social consequences including injury, violence, risky sexual behavior, alcoholism, unemployment, liver disease, and various cancers.2 Women tend to face alcohol-related problems at a lower drinking level than men due to differences in body size and other biological factors.3 Women who binge drink are also at greater risk of unintended pregnancy, which tends to delay pregnancy recognition and increase fetal alcohol exposure and risk of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.4

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines binge drinking as consuming four or more drinks on a single occasion for women and five or more drinks on a single occasion for men (usually over the course of about 2 hours).5 Heavy drinking is defined as consuming on average more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.

In 2009–2011, men were more likely than women to report both binge drinking (33.4 versus 21.1 percent, respectively) and heavy drinking (8.5 versus 7.3 percent, respectively) in the past 30 days. However, among women, heavy drinking increased with household income, and at incomes of 200 percent or more of the poverty level women and men were equally likely to drink heavily (8.2 percent). Binge drinking tended to increase with income for both women and men.

Binge and heavy drinking also varied significantly by age and race/ethnicity. Nearly 38 percent of women aged 18–25 years reported binge drinking in the past month compared to 6.2 percent of women aged 65 and older. Heavy drinking was also more common among women aged 18–25 years (11.4 percent) and decreased to less than 7 percent among women aged 35 and older. With respect to race and ethnicity, past-month binge drinking ranged from 9.0 percent among non-Hispanic Asian women to about 25 percent among non-Hispanic White and non-Hispanic Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander women (data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site).

1 U.S. Department of Agriculture link leaves hrsa.gov site, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services link leaves hrsa.gov site. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. 7th ed. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office; 2010. Accessed 09/20/13.

2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention link leaves hrsa.gov site. Fact Sheets: Alcohol Use and Health. Accessed 06/15/13.

3 National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism link leaves hrsa.gov site. Women and Alcohol. Accessed 06/15/13.

4 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention link leaves hrsa.gov site. Vital Signs: Binge Drinking—A serious and under-recognized problem among women and girls. Accessed 06/15/13.

5 U.S. Department of Agriculture link leaves hrsa.gov site, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services link leaves hrsa.gov site. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. 7th ed. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office; 2010. Accessed 09/20/13.

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Graphs

Data

Past-Month Binge and Heavy Drinking* Among Adults Aged 18 and Older, by Poverty Level** and Sex, 2009-2011
Poverty Level Percent of Adults, Binge Drinking, Female Percent of Adults, Binge Drinking, Male Percent of Adults, Heavy Drinking, Female Percent of Adults, Heavy Drinking, Male
*Binge drinking indicates drinking four or more drinks on a single occasion for women and five or more drinks on a single occasion for men usually over the course of about 2 hours. Heavy drinking indicates consumption of more than one drink per day on average for women and two drinks per day on average for men. All estimates are age-adjusted.
**Poverty level, defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, was $22,314 for a family of four in 2010.
Source: United States Department of Health and Human Services. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Office of Applied Studies. National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2009-2011. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2013-06-20. doi:10.3886/ICPSR34481.v2. Analysis conducted by the Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology and Statistics Program.
Less than 100% of Poverty 17.6 30.6 5.1 8.6
100-199% of Poverty 19.4 30.9 6.0 7.5
200% or More of Poverty 22.7 34.6 8.2 8.2
Total 21.1 33.4 7.3 8.5
Past-Month Binge and Heavy Drinking* Among Women Aged 18 and Older, by Age, 2009–2011
Age Group Percent of Women, Binge Drinking Percent of Women, Heavy Drinking
*Binge drinking indicates drinking four or more drinks on a single occasion for women and five or more drinks on a single occasion for men usually over the course of about 2 hours. Heavy drinking indicates consumption of more than one drink per day on average for women and two drinks per day on average for men.
Source: United States Department of Health and Human Services. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Office of Applied Studies. National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2009-2011. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2013-06-20. doi:10.3886/ICPSR34481.v2. Analysis conducted by the Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology and Statistics Program.
18-25 Years 37.7 11.4
25-34 Years 30.4 8.5
35-49 Years 21.8 6.9
50-64 Years 12.9 6.6
65 Years and Older 6.2 6.4