Background: Excessive alcohol use accounted for an estimated average of 23,000 deaths and 633,000 years of potential life lost (YPLL) among women and girls in the United States each year during 2001-2005. Binge drinking accounted for more than half of those deaths and YPLL. Binge drinking also is a risk factor for many health and social problems among women and girls, including unintended and alcohol-exposed pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and breast cancer.
Methods: To describe the prevalence, frequency, and intensity of binge drinking (four or more drinks on an occasion in the last 30 days) among U.S. women aged ≥18 years, CDC analyzed data from the 2011 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Data were also analyzed from the 2011 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey on the prevalence of current alcohol use (one or more drinks during the past 30 days) and binge drinking (five or more drinks in a row during the past 30 days) among U.S. high school girls in grades 9-12.
Results: Among adult women, the prevalence of binge drinking was 12.5%, and among those who binge drank, the frequency of binge drinking was 3.2 episodes per month and the intensity was 5.7 drinks on occasion. Binge drinking was most prevalent among women aged 18-24 years (24.2%) and 25-34 years (19.9%), and among those from households with annual incomes of ≥$75,000 (16.0%). Among those who binge drank, women aged 18-24 years had the highest frequency (3.6 episodes) and intensity (6.4 drinks) of binge drinking. Among high school girls, the prevalence of current alcohol use was 37.9%, the prevalence of binge drinking was 19.8%, and the prevalence of binge drinking among girls who reported current alcohol use was 54.6%.
Conclusions: Binge drinking is reported by one in eight U.S. adult women and one in five high school girls. Women who binge drink tend to do so frequently and with high intensity. Most high school girls who reported current alcohol use also reported binge drinking.
Implications for public health practice: More widespread implementation of evidence-based interventions, such as those recommended by the Guide to Community Preventive Services and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, would be expected to reduce the frequency and intensity, and ultimately the prevalence of binge drinking among women and girls, and the harms related to it.