Changes in Alcohol Consumption: United States, 2001-2002 to 2012-2013

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2015 Mar 1;148:56-61. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2014.12.016. Epub 2014 Dec 23.


Background: Documenting changes in alcohol consumption is critical for assessing future health service and alcohol treatment needs, evaluating efforts to modify drinking behavior and understanding the impact of shifting demographics and social norms. For the period since 2000, published data on drinking trends have been scarce and inconsistent.

Methods: Using data from two large, nationally representative surveys of U.S. adults (2001-2002 and 2012-2013) that contained virtually identical questions on consumption, we assessed differences by period in the prevalence of drinking, volume of intake, frequency of drinking and prevalence of ≥monthly heavy episodic drinking (HED) and determined whether changes in consumption were consistent across beverage types and in population subgroups.

Results: Between 2001-2002 and 2012-2013, the prevalence of drinking increased, as did volume and frequency of drinking and prevalence of ≥monthly HED among drinkers. Increases were greater for women than men for all measures and smaller among the formerly married for consumption among drinkers. The increase in overall drinking prevalence was magnified among all race-ethnic minorities, whereas the increase in ≥monthly HED was magnified only among Blacks (all relative to Whites).

Conclusions: Our findings are suggestive of a "wetter" drinking climate in 2012-2013 than in 2001-2002, indicating the need for continued and expanded efforts to prevent chronic and episodic heavy alcohol consumption. Given the across-the-board increases in alcohol consumption in recent years, policy efforts that address drinking at the population level are supported, even if specific drinking behaviors and subgroups of drinkers are additionally targeted for individualized approaches.

Keywords: Alcohol consumption; Drinking trends; Heavy episodic drinking.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology
  • Alcohol Drinking / trends*
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / epidemiology
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / psychology
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Alcoholism / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult