Vital Signs: Binge Drinking Prevalence, Frequency, and Intensity Among Adults

United States, 2010

Dafna Kanny, PhD; Yong Liu, MS; Robert D. Brewer, MD; William S. Garvin; Lina Balluz, ScD


Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2012;61(1):14-19. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Background: Binge drinking accounts for more than half of the estimated 80,000 average annual deaths and three quarters of $223.5 billion in economic costs resulting from excessive alcohol consumption in the United States.
Methods: CDC analyzed data collected in 2010 on the prevalence of binge drinking (defined as four or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men on an occasion during the past 30 days) among U.S. adults aged ≥18 years in 48 states and the District of Columbia; and on the frequency (average number of episodes per month) and intensity (average largest number of drinks consumed on occasion) among binge drinkers.
Results: The overall prevalence of binge drinking was 17.1%. Among binge drinkers, the frequency of binge drinking was 4.4 episodes per month, and the intensity was 7.9 drinks on occasion. Binge drinking prevalence (28.2%) and intensity (9.3 drinks) were highest among persons aged 18–24 years. Frequency was highest among binge drinkers aged ≥65 years (5.5 episodes per month). Respondents with household incomes ≥$75,000 had the highest binge drinking prevalence (20.2%), but those with household incomes <$25,000 had the highest frequency (5.0 episodes per month) and intensity (8.5 drinks on occasion). The age-adjusted prevalence of binge drinking in states ranged from 10.9% to 25.6%, and the age-adjusted intensity ranged from 6.0 to 9.0 drinks on occasion.
Conclusions: Binge drinking is reported by one in six U.S. adults, and those who binge drink tend to do so frequently and with high intensity.
Implications for Public Health Practice: More widespread implementation of Community Guide–recommended interventions (e.g., measures controlling access to alcohol and increasing prices) could reduce the frequency, intensity, and ultimately the prevalence of binge drinking, as well as the health and social costs related to it.


Excessive alcohol use* accounted for an estimated average of 80,000 deaths and 2.3 million years of potential life lost (YPLL) in the United States each year during 2001–2005, and an estimated $223.5 billion in economic costs in 2006.[1] Binge drinking accounted for more than half of those deaths, two thirds of the YPLL,[2] and three quarters of the economic costs.[1] Binge drinking also is a risk factor for many health and social problems, including motor-vehicle crashes, violence, suicide, hypertension, acute myocardial infarction, sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancy, fetal alcohol syndrome, and sudden infant death syndrome.[3] In 2010, 85% of all alcohol-impaired driving episodes were reported by persons who also reported binge drinking.[4] In the United States, binge drinking accounts for more than half of the alcohol consumed by adults[5] and 90% of the alcohol consumed by youths.[6] However, most binge drinkers are not alcohol dependent.[7]

Reducing the prevalence of binge drinking among adults is a leading health indicator in Healthy People 2020 (objective SA-14.3).[8] To assess measures of binge drinking nationwide and by state, CDC analyzed developmental data§ from the 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) on the prevalence of binge drinking among adults, and on the frequency and intensity of drinking among respondents who reported binge drinking.

* Excessive alcohol use includes binge drinking (defined by CDC as consuming four or more drinks per occasion for women or five or more drinks per occasion for men), heavy drinking (defined as consuming more than one drink per day on average for women or more than two drinks per day on average for men), any alcohol consumption by pregnant women, and any alcohol consumption by youths aged <21 years.
YPLL for 2001–2005 were estimated using the Alcohol-Related Disease Impact (ARDI) application using death and life expectancy data from the National Vital Statistics System. Additional information is available at
§ The 2010 BRFSS developmental dataset included combined landline and cellular telephone–only adults and used the raking method for weighting.


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