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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU: Almost Half of US Adults Who Drink, Drink Too Much, and Continue to Do So

A new study led by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers finds about 40 percent of adults in the United States who drink alcohol do so in amounts that risk health consequences, and identifies a range of factors associated with starting or stopping drinking too much.

The study, published in the Journal of Substance Use, found that 73 percent of those drinking risky amounts were still doing so two to four years later, while 15 percent of those not drinking risky amounts began to. Starting to drink too much was associated with being younger, transitioning to legal drinking age, being male and white, and smoking and drug use, among other social factors.The researchers used data collected by interview from a nationally representative sample of more than 34,000 adults in the U.S. who completed the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions in 2001–2002 and again in 2004–2005. The survey assessed participants’ drinking in the past month using a well-validated interview tool. “At-risk use” was defined as more than 14 drinks per week on average or more than 4 on an occasion for men, and more than 7 per week or more than 3 on an occasion for women.

“Some people just stop drinking too much, but most continue for years, and others not drinking too much will begin doing so during adulthood,” says lead author Dr. Richard Saitz, professor of community health sciences at BUSPH. “Public health and clinical messages need repeating, particularly in young adulthood. Once is not enough.”

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