Binge drinking and health-related quality of life: do popular perceptions match reality?

Am J Prev Med. 2004 Apr;26(3):230-3. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2003.10.022.


Background: Popular culture (movies, television shows, advertising) often portrays drinking to the point of intoxication as either humorous or associated with enjoyable social activities that enhance quality of life. This study examined the association between binge drinking (consuming five or more alcoholic drinks on one occasion) and health-related quality of life (HRQOL) among U.S. adults.

Methods: Data are from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a continuous random-digit-dial telephone survey of adults aged >/=18 years conducted in all states. This survey included questions about alcohol consumption and HRQOL.

Results: In 2001, 52% of U.S. adults were current drinkers (one or more drinks in the past 30 days). Of current drinkers, 11% were frequent binge drinkers (three or more episodes in past month) and 14% were infrequent binge drinkers (one to two episodes in past month). After adjusting for confounding factors, frequent binge drinkers were more likely than non-binge drinkers to experience >/=14 unhealthy days (physical or mental) in the past month (adjusted odds ratio [AOR]=1.39, 95% confidence interval [CI]=1.24-1.56), primarily because they had more mentally unhealthy days than non-binge drinkers (AOR=1.52, 95% CI=1.32-1.75).

Conclusions: Frequent binge drinking is associated with significantly worse HRQOL and mental distress, including stress, depression, and emotional problems. Effective interventions to prevent binge drinking should be widely adopted and may help improve quality of life.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking*
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / epidemiology*
  • Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
  • Female
  • Georgia / epidemiology
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Life Style
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Probability
  • Quality of Life*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk-Taking
  • Sex Distribution
  • Surveys and Questionnaires