If you’re recovering from St. Patrick’s Day festivities, the results of a new study from the CDC may make you think twice about doing it again. The paper finds that people in the U.S. consume over 17 billion drinks per year during binges—that is, excluding all the regular drinking that people do. Although other substances, like opioids, sometimes take the spotlight, heavy alcohol use has been increasing in recent years, and is at least as much of a concern, given all the health risks it poses, and the underlying problems that may trigger it.
“This study shows that binge drinkers are consuming a huge number of drinks per year, greatly increasing their chances of harming themselves and others,” said study co-author and lead researcher in CDC’s alcohol program Robert Brewer, in a statement. “The findings also show the importance of taking a comprehensive approach to prevent binge drinking, focusing on reducing both the number of times people binge drink and the amount they drink when they binge.”
The team, publishing in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, looked over data from interviews of more than 400,000 people across the U.S. Among other things, they were asked how often they drank over the past month, and how much during each session. Binge drinking was defined as four or more drinks per occasion for women, and five or more for men. Then the team calculated how much occurred over the year, on average.
They extrapolated that 37 million, or one in six, people in the country binge-drink at some point. On average, those who had bingeing episodes did it about once a week, and consumed about seven drinks in each occasion. And again, the grand total for 2015 was about 17.5 billion drinks consumed in binges.
Men were much more likely to binge-drink than women. The states with the highest levels of binge drinking were Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Hawaii. Those where the least occurred were Washington, DC; New Jersey; New York; and Washington State.