Binge drinking is a dangerous pattern of short-term, excessive alcohol intake linked with a broad range of individual and public health risks. In the U.S., alcohol consumers of all ages are known to engage in this pattern to one degree or another. In a study published in March 2014 in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, researchers from two U.S. institutions used survey information from a large-scale project to estimate the relative frequency of binge drinking among men and women, as well as the relative frequency of the practice among various racial/ethnic groups. In the U.S., the threshold for legal drunkenness is a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent. People who binge drink consume enough alcohol to reach this level of intoxication in about two hours or less. More than 50 percent of alcohol intake throughout America takes place in binge-drinking situations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. Among people who participate in underage drinking, this number rises to 90 percent. In terms of age, the single demographic group most likely to binge drink is older teenagers and younger adults between the ages of 18 and 34. However, the relatively small number of people who engage in the practice after the age of 64 actually participate in more binge-drinking episodes per month than their young counterparts. More than nine in 10 U.S. adults who drink heavily qualify as monthly binge drinkers.
Binge Drinking Consequences
The rapid intoxication that defines binge drinking is linked to a number of seriously negative outcomes for both those who engage in the practice and the public at large. Not surprisingly, binge drinkers consequently have increased risks for getting involved in car crashes, as well as other types of potentially fatal accidents. The swift buildup of alcohol in the bloodstreams of binge drinkers triggers a very real risk for the onset of nonfatal or fatal cases of alcohol poisoning. Other known consequences of the practice include increased risks for exposure to intentional violence, participation in sexually risky behavior, nerve damage, liver damage, and heart and blood vessel disease. All told, the CDC estimates that the U.S. loses hundreds of billions of dollars each year from the social costs of binge drinking and other forms of excessive alcohol consumption.
Which Groups Are Most Likely to Binge Drink?
In the study published in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, researchers from the State of California and Loma Linda University sought to deepen the understanding of the societal groups most likely to participate in binge drinking. To achieve this goal, they compiled information from two years of a statewide project called the California Health Interview Surveys; altogether, data was gathered from 98,662 people. The researchers focused their efforts on the gender breakdown of binge drinking participation, as well as on the racial/ethnic breakdown of participation in this practice. Instead of lumping non-white racial/ethnic groups into multinational categories (Hispanic/Latino, Asian American, etc.), they attempted to break the groups down by nation of origin or region of origin. The researchers found that 31 percent of the men involved in the study reported involvement in binge drinking; in contrast, only 18 percent of the women reported as binge drinkers. For men, the highest rate for the practice (42.9 percent) occurred among individuals of Mexican descent, while the lowest (11.9 percent) occurred among individuals of Chinese descent. For women, the highest rate of binge drinking (25.7 percent) occurred among a diversified group called “Other Latino,” while the lowest (4.8 percent) occurred among individuals of Vietnamese descent. When men and women with the same racial/ethnic background were considered together, individuals classified as white were the most likely to binge drink. However, compared to most other racial/ethnic groups, relatively large numbers of white men and women also binge drank less than once a month.
New Trends Discovered
The authors of the study published in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse note that their detailed breakdown of non-white racial/ethnic groups revealed previously unnoticed or underreported trends in binge drinking among specific subgroups of both Hispanic/Latinos and Asians. They believe that this finding highlights the need to provide comprehensive information on the specific racial/ethnic risks for binge drinking participation, as well as comprehensive information on the gender-specific risks for binge drinking.