Women's Health USA 2007
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Health Status > Health Behaviors

Alcohol Use

In 2005, 51.8 percent of the total U.S. population aged 12 and older reported using alcohol in the past month; among those aged 18 and older, the rate was 55.9 percent (data not shown). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that, in small amounts, can have a relaxing effect. Although there is some debate over the health benefits of small amounts of alcohol consumed regularly, the negative health effects of excessive alcohol use and abuse are well-established. Short-term effects can include increased risk of motor vehicle injuries, falls, domestic violence, and child abuse. Long-term effects can include pancreatitis, high blood pressure, liver cirrhosis, various cancers, and psychological disorders, including dependency.

Overall, males are more likely to drink alcohol than females with past-month alcohol use reported by 58.1 percent of males and 45.9 percent of females aged 12 years and older. This is true across all age groups with the exception of 12- to 17-year-olds; in that group, 17.2 percent of females and 15.9 percent of males reported past-month use. Males are also more likely than females to engage in binge drinking, which is defined as drinking five or more drinks on the same occasion at least once in the past month (30.5 versus 15.2 percent), and heavy drinking, which is defined as five or more drinks on the same occasion at least five times in the past month (10.3 versus 3.1 percent).

Alcohol use during pregnancy can be a special concern for women of childbearing age. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can contribute to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), low birth weight in infants, and developmental delays. In 200405, 12.1 percent of pregnant women reported drinking alcohol in the past month. This was most common in the 1517 and 2644 year age groups (13.9 and 13.5 percent, respectively) and least common among those in the 1825 year age group (9.7 percent; data not shown).


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Women's Health USA 2007 is not copyrighted. Readers are free to duplicate and use all or part of the information contained on this page. Suggested Citation: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Women's Health USA 2007. Rockville, Maryland: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2007.