The study defined high-risk drinking as regular consumption of four
drinks a day for women or five for men. U.S. adults with an alcohol
use disorder, defined as a dependence on alcohol, also increased
nearly 50 percent during the period studied, researchers found.
Increases in drinking were greatest among women, older adults,
racial and ethnic minorities and people with low education and
income levels, the study found.
"Light drinking has been shown to be helpful for people’s health
overall, but heavy drinking can lead to some harms and impairment,"
said study's lead author Deborah Hasin, of Columbia University in
Heavy drinking and alcohol use disorders are risk factors for health
issues such as high blood pressure, heart problems, stroke, cancer
and infections, Hasin and colleagues wrote in the medical journal
Past studies found alcohol use in the United States declined between
the 1970s and early 1990s. More recent research, however, has
suggested increases in alcohol use between the 1990s and early
The new findings are based on face-to-face interviews with
nationally representative samples of adults in 2001-2002 and
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The proportion of adults using alcohol during the previous year
increased from about 65 percent to about 73 percent over the study
period. Drinking more than four or five alcoholic beverages in one
sitting also increased from about 10 percent to about 13 percent,
The proportion of adults who met the criteria for an alcohol use
disorder increased from about 9 percent to about 13 percent.
"People need to really take some of the information about the
potential harms of heavy drinking into account when determining when
and how much to drink," Hasin said.
"Policymakers and health professionals need to be aware of this,
too," she added.
The study does not explain why alcohol drinking and abuse increased,
but researchers suggest some explanations could be changing social
norms and its use as a coping device.
"Researchers will be trying to examine why these changes are
happening," Hasin said.
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/2uoeMc0 JAMA Psychiatry, online August 9,
(Reporting by Andrew Seaman; editing by Bill Berkrot and David
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