Kentuckians binge drink more often than residents of any other state, national survey for federal health agency finds

By Tara Kaprowy
Kentucky Health News

Kentuckians binge drink an average of about six times per month, more often than people living in any other state, a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.

Binge drinking is defined as consuming four or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men on one occasion. Nationwide, 17 percent of adults binge drink, up from 15 percent in a 2009 survey. That’s one in six people, averaging four binges a month and eight drinks per binge (CDC graphic).
Excessive and binge drinking “causes more than 80,000 deaths in the United States each year, making it the third leading preventable cause of death,” reports MSNBC. Binge drinkers are at an increased risk for liver disease, heart disease, of being in a car accident and engaging in violent behavior.
The report analyzed data from a 2010 telephone survey of 458,000 adults who described their previous 30 days of drinking. “Although the percentage of people reporting binge drinking was highest among young people, it was binge drinkers ages 65 and older who over-consumed the most often: this group reported an average of five to six episodes a month,” MSNBC reports.
Though Kentuckians binge drink most often, residents of Wisconsin drink the most alcohol β€” up to 9 drinks on one occasion β€” and had the highest percentage, 25.6, of people who said they binge drink. Utah and West Virginia has the lowest share of people who say they binge drink, 10.9 percent. New Jersey had the lowest frequency, 3.6 times per month. (Read more)
Meanwhile, a study found drinking alcohol leads to the release of endorphins in parts of the brain that are responsible for feelings of pleasure and reward, says research-reporting service Newswise. “This is something that we’ve speculated about for 30 years, based on animal studies, but haven’t observed in humans until now,” said lead author Jennifer Mitchell, clinical project director at the Gallo Center at the University of California-San Francisco. “It provides the first direct evidence of how alcohol makes people feel good.”
Excessive alcohol consumption costs the country about $223.5 billion per year, “mostly due to lost workplace productivity and increased health care costs,” reports Sarah Kiff for The Washington Post. (Photo by Uselei Marcelino, Reuters)
A study by Canadian researchers has found that setting a minimum alcohol price can drive down those costs β€” and is more accepted by the public than imposing taxes. The researchers found “for every 10 percent hike in minimum alcohol price, they found people drank 3.4 percent less alcohol,” Kiff reports. “For certain drinks, the effect was even more pronounced: Increasing the minimum price of wine by 10 percent correlates with an 8.9 percent drop in consumption. Beer, however, appeared relatively resilient to price fluctuations, with a 10 percent bump lowering consumption a paltry 1.5 percent.”
England and Wales have passed legislation that prohibits the sale of below-cost alcohol. Scotland is considering a similar move. (Read more)
Kentucky Health News is a service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Telecommunications at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.
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