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Binge Drinkers More Likely to Report Poor Overall Health

Posted in Alcohol Abuse

Heavy drinking leads to about 79,000 deaths per year in the United States, and more than half of those deaths are caused by binge drinking, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC recently conducted a study and found that binge drinkers are 13 to 23 percent more likely to report poor health. Binge drinking is defined as having four or more drinks per drinking session for women and five or more for men.

The study, which will be published in the August issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, examined 200,587 adult drinkers who participated in the 2008 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), which asked participants to rate their health as excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor. The researchers then divided the self-reports into two categories: optimal health and suboptimal.

James Tasi, corresponding author for the study and an epidemiologist at the CDC, said that in 2008, approximately 35 million adults binge drank, and almost half of them said they binge rank four or more times in one month. Their results found that people who binge drink frequently or drink heavily are at a higher risk of reporting poor health.

Robert D. Brewer, the CDC’s alcohol program leader, said that binge drinking can result in a variety of health and social problems, from potentially fatal car accidents to violence and risky sexual behavior. He added that adult binge drinkers usually have eight drinks per episode, which is far more than the four or five drinks that define binge drinking. Despite this, most binge drinkers are not dependent on alcohol.

According to Tsai, about 35 million adults reported binge drinking in 2008, and more than 40 percent reported binge drinking four or more times over a 30-day period. The new study found that frequent binge drinkers are significantly more likely to perceive their health as suboptimal.

Brewer said their results are important because people who report poor health are more at risk for being hospitalized than those who report better health. In addition, the report underscores the scientific evidence that binge drinking is dangerous and can lead to hospitalization and death.

Tsai added that these results underscore the importance of screening for problematic drinking in healthcare settings.

Source: Science Daily, Binge Drinkers Report Sub-Optimal Health Status More Often Than Non-Binge Drinkers, June 7, 2010