Binge Drinkers More Likely to Report Poor Health

Posted on 6/05/2010 by meg

From recent data analysis, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have established that excessive drinking is responsible for about 79,000 deaths in the United States each year. Of those deaths, binge drinkers account for more than half.
To further investigate this phenomenon, researchers studied the self-perceptions of drinkers and found that binge drinkers are 13% to 23% more likely to report having poor health.

In the study, a woman is considered a binge drinker if she consumes 4 or more drinks per occasion, while a man is considered a binge drinker if he consumes 5 or more drinks per occasion. At the same time, heavy drinking is defined as consuming at least 14 drinks per week for men and 7 or more drinks per week for women.

"What's more, adult binge drinkers typically … consume an average of about eight drinks per binge episode, well in excess of the cut-points used to define this behavior. Even so, most binge drinkers are not alcohol dependent" says D. Brewer, alcohol program leader at the CDC. Nevertheless, binge drinking is often associated with various health and social problems, such as car crashes, violence, STDs, and unintended pregnancies.

Data from the 2008 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) was studied, which included 89,919 men drinkers and 110,668 women drinkers. Each subject was asked to rate their health by answering only one question: "Would you say that, in general, your health is excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor?"

"Self-rated health (SRH) is a single question that has been used by many national and international health surveys to measure participants' perception of their overall health status," explained James Tsai, an epidemiologist at the CDC and corresponding author for the study. "Several decades of research has accumulated substantial and consistent evidence that SRH is strong predictor of future morbidity and mortality, as well as functional decline and health care utilization."
Results show that nearly 35 million adults reported binge drinking in 2008, where more than 40% of those adults reported four or more binge drinking episodes in only the past 30 days. Findings also illustrate that these binge drinkers are significantly more likely to report having suboptimal health. As a result, people who feel less healthy are more likely to be hospitalized and have a higher risk of death than those who report feeling healthy.

"These results support broad-based implementation of screening and brief interventions for excessive drinking in health-care settings," said Tsai. "The magnitude of the prevalence of binge drinking and the estimated population size also underscores the need to identify and implement effective population-based prevention and intervention strategies."
Brewer suggests that society needs to take a more proactive stance on reducing binge drinking by implementing certain strategies such as increasing taxes on alcohol products, limiting the number of businesses that sell alcohol within regional proximities or restricting the days and hours that alcohol is sold.

Of course, these types of strategies may not be the answer, but they may help to lower binge drinking statistics, such as self-reports of poor health, hospitalizations, deaths etc.; not to mention lowering the risk that binge drinking could develop into dependence.

Binge Drinkers Report Sub-Optimal Health Status More Often Than Non-Binge Drinkers


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