Trends in alcohol use and binge drinking, 1985-1999: results of a multi-state survey

Am J Prev Med. 2004 May;26(4):294-8. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2003.12.017.


Background: Alcohol abuse is a major public health problem in the United States. Binge drinking and drinking among youth are of special concern. The purpose of this study is to examine trends in alcohol use and binge drinking and correlates of the behaviors with a focus on drinking among persons 18 to 20 years of age.

Methods: Data are from telephone interviews of 449,110 adults aged > or =18 years residing in the 19 states that participated in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) from 1985 to 1999. The percentages reporting current alcohol use and binge use (> or =5 drinks per occasion) were calculated by year, age, gender, race, and level of education. Data were analyzed in 2003.

Results: From 1985 to 1999, the prevalence of current alcohol use dropped 7.3%, and binge drinking dropped 3.3%. Among all age groups, most of the decline occurred before 1990. The greatest decline in both current (12.6%) and binge use (7.3%) occurred in the 18- to 20-year-old group. Between 1997 and 1999, however, respondents in this age group reported increases in these behaviors. Throughout the survey period, the proportion of current users who binge changed very little and remained highest among persons aged 18-20 years (52.1%).

Conclusions: Alcohol use leveled off in the 1990s, but may be increasing, especially among persons 18-20 years of age. Those who drink are about as likely to report binge drinking as were drinkers 15 years ago.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / epidemiology*
  • Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
  • Ethanol / poisoning*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Ethanol