Study says too many Americans still drink too much

Tue Feb 26, 2013 9:57am EST

A drink is poured at a bar in Beverly Hills, California December 10, 2008. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

A drink is poured at a bar in Beverly Hills, California December 10, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

(Reuters) - On any given day in the United States, 18 percent of men and 11 percent of women drink more alcohol than federal guidelines recommend, according to a study that also found that 8 percent of men and 3 percent of women are full-fledged "heavy drinkers."

That means the great majority of Americans stay within the advised limit of two drinks a day for men and one for women, according to the study that appeared in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

"And in fact, most adults don't drink at all on any given day," said lead author Patricia Guenther, a nutritionist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion.

"But the fact remains that it is a significant public health problem that many people do drink to excess."

Guenther said that members of the committee that drafted the current USDA guidelines on alcohol consumption wanted to know how many adults exceeded the limits.

She and her colleagues collected data from a nationally representative survey on health and nutrition, which included about 5,400 adults over age 21. Among other things, each was asked how much alcohol they drank the previous day.

The researchers found that 64 percent of men and 79 percent of women said they drank no alcohol at all that day, and another 18 percent of men and 10 percent of women drank within the recommended amounts.

Nine percent of men said they had three to four drinks the day before and 8 percent of women said they drank two to three alcoholic beverages, the researchers said.

The heaviest drinkers of all were the 8 percent of men who had five or more drinks, and 3 percent of women who had four or more.

"Overall the study confirms that rates of unhealthy alcohol use in the U.S. are significant," said Jennifer Mertens, a research medical scientist at Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, California, who was not part of the study.

Regularly drinking more than recommended levels is "linked to increased alcohol-related problems," Mertens wrote in an email to Reuters Health.

"Binge drinking (more than four drinks on any one day for men and more than three on any one day for women and older adults) even one time can increase the risk of injury from falls, motor vehicle accidents and other accidents," she added.

Among men, the 31-to-50-year-old age group had the most heavy drinkers, at 22 percent. Among women, the heaviest drinkers - 12 percent - were between 51 and 70 years old.

Guenther said that's important to note because it highlights that heavy drinking is not just part of life among the college set.

"People need to be aware that there are people of all ages who drink to excess," she told Reuters Health, adding that the new study is also important because it may help people recognize whether they themselves are drinking more than recommended.

"There are people who don't realize that they are drinking more than what's beneficial to their health," she said.


(This story was corrected to fix the age range and typo in the 13th paragraph)

(Reporting from New York by Kerry Grens at Reuters Health; editing by Elaine Lies)

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Comments (3)
HarryO12345 wrote:
Federal guidelines??? gimme a break. Who wouldn’t drink when their own government is destroying their country by transforming it into the Cloward–Piven strategy. Only the stupid don’t drink.

Feb 26, 2013 10:34am EST  --  Report as abuse
daedilus wrote:
I vote the citizens rise up and overthrow the federal guidelines…

Feb 26, 2013 10:57am EST  --  Report as abuse
skyway wrote:
I haven’t had a drink since 1987 and it has certainly stood me well, especially during tough times. I look back over the last 25+ years and the thing I am the most grateful for is the fact that I did not raise my daughter as a drunken mother. I know I would have spent an ever increasing amount of time drunk on the sofa if it had not been for the fact that I stopped drinking. Its just an idea, but if you have a serious problem with alcohol you might consider calling Alcoholics Anonymous in your area. You can type in the name of your city or county and the words Alcoholics Anonymous in Google and it will return information on meetings in your area. Although it may seem impossible to stop drinking if you have a serious problem, the truth is that you CAN stop – and the worst day sober is better than the best day drinking.

Feb 26, 2013 11:10am EST  --  Report as abuse
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