General

Nearly One in Three Americans Binge-Drink at Least Once in a Given Month

Image Credit: Photo by Nicole De Khors from Burst

With Memorial Day past us and the unofficial start of summer upon us, it’s high time for backyard barbecues and beach bashes and other alliterative forms of summer fun.

And for many Americans, alcohol will play a role in their enjoyment of the summer sun.

We are a country of drinkers: The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says 7 out 10 Americans drink at least once a year.

And while many Americans enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, a significant number of Americans enjoy four or five drinks in a sitting, which, according to the CDC, is considered binge-drinking. (That’s five drinks in one sitting for men, four drinks for women.)

Taking a look at the numbers, men are 13% more likely than women to have binge drunk at least once in the last month. Notably, however, 63% of men and 71% of women didn’t binge-drink at all.

And of binge-drinkers, the vast majority did it between once and three times, indicating a “weekend warrior” – or “sometimes weekend warrior” – mentality. 

Crunching and grouping the numbers  – and looking only at people who do binge-drink – men are heavier binge-drinkers than women. Men who binge drank eight or more times in the last 30 days did so at a 60% higher clip than women, whereas women who binge drank did so with less frequency.

One quirk – both men and women tilted either to just a few times, or more than eight times. The middle ground was shallow.

Breaking it down by age, a pair of trends emerged with both men and women: Americans under 25 were more likely to binge-drink between one and three times a month than older generations, whereas people over the age of 35 were more likely to binge-drink at least eight times a month compared to their younger cohorts. Once again, the middle was squeezed.

Besides the known health risks to binge-drinking, there is also the issue of people who are drunk getting behind the wheel of their car. While drunk driving education has helped change the culture of driving while intoxicated, 11% of Americans still admit to driving drunk in a given year, according to the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

The blood alcohol limit in 49 states is .08%; Utah lowered its to .05%, and a handful of other states are considering the same. It’s a big difference: To get to .08%, a 180-pound man would have to drink about four alcoholic beverages in two hours; for a 120-pound woman, a little more than two drinks would do the same. But at .05%, the man would be considered legally drunk at a shade more than two drinks; the woman, about 1.5.

With this in mind, CivicScience asked Americans if they knew how many drinks would put them over the legal limit. The first chart is all Americans, the second is just people who drink.

Cross-comparing these numbers with binge-drinkers, the same barbell-type trend emerges: Men and women who binge-drink one to three times a month and people who binge-drink eight or more times a month are much more aware of how many drinks will put them over the limit than binge-drinkers who do so four to seven times a month.

Whether or not binge-drinkers know what their legal limits are, they do use rideshare apps at a significantly higher rate than the average American. According to our data, 35% of American adults use rideshare apps. Compare this below to rideshare usage among male and female binge-drinkers.

Overall, about one in three Americans binge-drink at least once in a given month, and about 9% do so at least eight times a month. CivicScience will be tracking these numbers going forward.

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