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Americans binge 17 billion drinks a year, CDC says

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers some striking findings on Americans' drinking habits. The study focuses on binge drinking and finds that U.S. adults consumed an astounding 17.5 billion binge drinks in 2015. That works out to nearly 470 binge drinks a year for each of the 37.4 million people who reported alcohol binges.

Binge drinking is defined as consuming five or more alcoholic beverages for men, or four or more drinks for women, within about two hours.

Researchers found that about 1 in 6 U.S. adults reported binge drinking an average of about once a week, consuming an average of seven drinks per binge. 

"This study shows that binge drinkers are consuming a huge number of drinks per year, greatly increasing their chances of harming themselves and others," study co-author Dr. Robert Brewer, lead researcher in CDC's alcohol program, said 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."

While binge drinking was more common among younger adults age 18 to 34, more than half of the binge drinks consumed over the study period were by adults age 35 and older.

Binge drinking was also much more common in men than women, with 4 out of 5 binge drinks consumed by males.

Difference between binge drinking and alcoholism 02:46

Geographically, binge drinkers consumed the most alcohol in Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Hawaii, and the least in Washington, D.C., New Jersey, New York, and Washington state.

Finally, binge dinking was more common in lower income households and among people with lower educational levels.

For the report, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers analyzed data on self-reported binge drinking during the past 30 days in a nationally representative study.

The CDC warns of the dangers of binge drinking, including the increased likelihood of dangerous driving and risky sexual behavior. Excessive alcohol use is also associated with a higher risk of serious health problems such as cancer, heart disease, and liver failure.

According to the CDC, 88,000 deaths are directly attributed to alcohol use each year and half of those are due to binge drinking.

Public health officials recommend that people who want to consume alcohol should do so in moderation. For women, that means up to one drink per day, and up to two drinks a day for men.

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