CDC Report: Binge Drinking is Under-Recognized in Women and Girls

Jan 9, 2013, 11:00 AM


The first Vital Signs health indicators report of 2013 from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention finds that binge drinking is too often not recognized as a women’s health problem. The report found that nearly 14 million U.S. women binge drink about three times a month, and consume an average of six drinks per binge. CDC researchers determined the rate of binge drinking among U.S. women and girls by looking at the drinking behavior of approximately 278,000 U.S. women aged 18 and older for the past 30 days through data collected from the 2011 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, and for approximately 7,500 U.S. high school girls from the 2011 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

For women and girls, binge drinking is defined as consuming four or more drinks on one occasion. Drinking excessively, including binge drinking, causes about 23,000 deaths among women and girls in the United States each year. About 1 in 8 women and 1 in 5 high school girls report binge drinking, with the practice most common among women ages 8-34, high school girls, whites, Hispanics and women with household incomes of $75,000 or more. Half of all high school girls who drink alcohol report binge drinking.

According to the CDC, binge drinking puts women at increased risk for many health problems, including breast cancer, sexually transmitted diseases, heart disease and unintended pregnancy. Pregnant women who binge drink expose their babies to high levels of alcohol, which can result in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders and sudden infant death syndrome.

“It is alarming to see that binge drinking is so common among women and girls, and that women and girls are drinking so much when they do,” said Robert Brewer, MD, MSPH, of the Alcohol Program at CDC. “The good news is that the same scientifically proven strategies for communities and clinical settings that we know can prevent binge drinking in the overall population can also work to prevent binge drinking among women and girls.”

The new Vital Signs report highlights the Guide to Community Preventive Services (Community Guide), which offers evidence-based recommendations to prevent binge drinking, including regulating alcohol outlet density and maintaining limits on hours of sale. “Effective community measures can support women and girls in making wise choices about whether to drink or how much to drink if they do,” says CDC director Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH.

Information on binge drinking is available on the CDC’s website. Help is available for individuals by calling the National Drug and Alcohol Treatment Referral Routing Service at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

>>Read more on substance abuse.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.