Vital signs: binge drinking among high school students and adults --- United States, 2009

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2010 Oct 8;59(39):1274-9.


Background: Binge drinking was responsible for more than half of the estimated 79,000 deaths and two thirds of the estimated 2.3 million years of potential life lost as a result of excessive drinking each year in the United States during 2001-2005.

Methods: CDC analyzed data from the 2009 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) on the prevalence of binge drinking (defined as consuming four or more alcoholic drinks per occasion for women and five or more for men during the past 30 days) among U.S. adults aged ≥18 years who responded to the BRFSS survey by landline or cellular telephone. Data also were analyzed from the 2009 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) on the prevalence of current alcohol use (consuming at least one alcoholic drink during the 30 days before the survey), and binge drinking (consuming five or more alcoholic drinks within a couple of hours during the 30 days before the survey) among U.S. high school students, and on the prevalence of binge drinking among high school students who reported current alcohol use.

Results: Among U.S. adults, the prevalence of reported binge drinking was 15.2% among landline respondents. Binge drinking was more common among men (20.7%), persons aged 18-24 years (25.6%) and 25-34 years (22.5%), whites (16.0%), and persons with annual household incomes of $75,000 or more (19.3%). Among cellular telephone respondents, the overall prevalence of binge drinking (20.6%) was higher than among landline respondents, although the demographic patterns of binge drinking were similar. Prevalence among high school students was 41.8% for current alcohol use, 24.2% for binge drinking, and 60.9% for binge drinking among students who reported current alcohol use.

Conclusions: Binge drinking is common among U.S. adults, particularly those with higher household incomes, and among high school students. Binge drinking estimates for adults were higher in the cellular telephone sample than in the landline sample. Most youths who reported current alcohol use also reported binge drinking.

Implications for public health practice: Binge drinking is a serious problem among adults and youths that can be reduced by implementation of evidence-based interventions.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking*
  • Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / poisoning*
  • Ethanol / poisoning*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Students / statistics & numerical data
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Ethanol