Alcohol has had a sordid relationship with America since the dawn of the nation. In the early days of our country, alcohol was seen as a healthy addition to the diet. Doctors prescribed it and viewed it as a digestive aid with medicinal benefits.
Today, we know more about the negative health effects of alcohol consumption compared to our ancestors, but you might be surprised at what you don’t know about alcohol.
The notion of “moderate” alcohol use and its long-term effects is blurred by our own misperceptions.
To better understand our culture’s take on alcohol consumption we surveyed more than 2,000 participants and compared their perceived alcohol consumption with factual data. The gap between truth and perception may shock you.
How Much Alcohol Do We Actually Consume?
Binge drinking might draw mental images of college frat parties with kegs flowing freely and red plastic cups spread about as young adults consume alcohol for hours; however, binge drinking can take form outside of the college party scene. We found that many people are naive of their binge drinking patterns because they are unaware of the definition of binge drinking.
- Binge drinking men is considered to be five or more drinks over the span of just a few hours.
- For women, binge drinking is defined as four or more drinks in that same short span of time.
When asked how much they binge drink in a month, more than 60 percent of our respondents said they don’t binge drink at all; however, a large percentage of these people were actually partaking in binge drinking without realizing.
When we asked our respondents about actual drink counts the number of binge drinkers changed dramatically. When men and women were asked how often they consume five or more drinks in a sitting – four for women – those who said none (or “0”) dropped to just 45 percent. That’s about a 29 percent difference in people who might drink to excess based on the true volume consumed in a 30-day period.
That raises a big flag about our own perceptions regarding how much we actually drink versus actual binge drinking. If you’re concerned about your own level of drinking, review some of the warning signs and seek help if needed.
How Much Do Other People Drink?
If you’re not counting your own drinks when imbibing with friends and family, it’s even less likely that you’re counting theirs.
When respondents were asked how many people in the U.S. binge drink, a fraction of them (32.4 percent) believed that 1 in 4 consumed a large volume of drinks in one sitting. About 25 percent said 1 in 6, and a majority (about 43 percent) believed that approximately 1 in 10 people drink to excess.
Only about 25 percent of respondents were actually correct – the true number of people who binge drink is 1 in 6.
What Percentage of Women Drink While Pregnant?
When there’s a disconnect between what is considered responsible drinking and excessive drinking, we subject ourselves to dangerous behavior. We disassociate and disconnect from consequences, and our idea of what’s considered OK can fundamentally change.
For example, drinking alcohol while pregnant – at any stage of pregnancy – can be harmful to the fetus and result in fetal alcohol syndrome disorders (FASDs). As a child grows, the aftermath could show up in the following ways:
- Learning disabilities
- Difficulty following directions
- Problems with emotional control and outbursts
- Difficulty with socialization and communication
- Inability to maintain regular daily life habits, such as bathing
When respondents were asked what percentage of women might drink while pregnant, the majority of respondents (45% of women and 44% of men) believed that 5% or fewer pregnant women consumed alcohol while pregnant.
Despite our optimism, the unfortunate truth is that as many as 10% of pregnant women drink.
As many as 5 out of every 100 school children may have FASDs because of this type of alcohol use. Are you or do you know of a pregnant woman who wants to give her baby the best possible future and quit drinking? We can help. Call 1-888-919-3845 to get professional, nonjudgmental assistance.
The Truth About Walking vs. Driving While Intoxicated
Misunderstanding binge drinking also creates confusion over the risks we take when drinking and walking. Designating sober drivers and ride-sharing services to avoid driving while intoxicated is smart; however, some people choose to walk home after a night of drinking. Is that still a safe alternative?
We asked our respondents if they felt more drunk drivers or drunk pedestrians were killed per year in accidents. Given the media coverage of drunk drivers, it’s not surprising that the majority believe more drunk drivers are killed.
In truth, intoxicated pedestrians make up the majority of fatalities. So what’s the danger in walking? In our recent study, we found that nearly 93 percent of intoxicated-pedestrian fatalities occurred in dimly lit or dark conditions. Yet only about 74 percent befell drivers under the same conditions. Night-time risks for intoxicated pedestrians could include becoming a victim of foul play or even getting hit by a car (whether the driver is sober or drunk).
Which Income Level Consumes the Most Alcohol?
The majority of respondents felt that those within the $26K to $39K income bracket were the heaviest of drinkers, followed by those earning less than $25K. This suggests that people believe younger or less wealthy people are often the biggest bingers- in reality, those in a different socioeconomic class are the heaviest drinkers.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development notes that people with a higher education and socioeconomic status tend to be the heaviest drinkers. More specifically, those earning more than $75,000 per year.
Which Age Group Has the Heaviest Drinkers?
When respondents were asked which age group they thought drank the most, more than 90 percent pointed the finger at Millennials: 60.5 percent targeted those aged 15 to 24 and another 33 percent of respondents believed those aged 25 to 34 were the heaviest of drinkers.
Surprisingly, it’s the Baby Boomers who make up the majority, with those aged 65 and older comprising the largest percentage of binge drinkers.
While the majority of binge drinkers are of an older demographic, research has shown that minors who drink before the age of 15 are four times as likely to develop a dependence of addiction to alcohol later in life. That’s why it’s so important to educate youth on the dangers of binge drinking and what truly defines over consumption.
Misperceptions with alcohol consumption can be extremely dangerous. It’s easy to binge drink and consume too much when you believe that you haven’t consumed in excess. It’s even easier to disregard the drinking habits of those we care about when we don’t fully understand the scope of their consumption and the impact it can have on their health or those around them.
Any amount of alcohol impairs your judgment, especially when drinking to excess. With 1 in 6 people binge drinking each month, we start to understand why 5 out of every 100 children show signs of fetal alcohol syndrome, and why more than 30 percent of all traffic-related deaths in in 2014 (9,967 people) were due to drunk driving.
Only through moderation, self-control, and possibly treatment can you protect your health (and those around you) and minimize fatalities that result from alcohol abuse.
If you feel you may have misunderstood your own habits and need help, or want to seek help for someone you love, there are resources that can help. No matter your situation, there are programs and professionals that can provide guidance for recovery.
We created a survey and asked 2,015 random participants questions about alcohol. Their responses were then compared with the correct answers we received from the data sources below.
- The following sources were found to compare participant answers to the correct answers: