Binge Drinking and Alcohol Problems Among Moderate Average-Level Drinkers
A significant amount of binge alcohol use among adults escapes public health scrutiny because it occurs among individuals who use alcohol at a moderate average level. This observational study examined the role of a binge pattern of alcohol use in predicting alcohol problems among moderate alcohol users in a U.S. national sample of adults.
Participants were 1,229 current alcohol users aged ≥30 years from 2 waves of the study of Midlife Development in the United States, with a 9-year time lag (2004–2015) (analyzed in 2021‒2022). Negative binomial regression analyses were used to examine the number of alcohol problems, and binary logistic regression analyses were used to examine multiple (≥2) alcohol problems.
Independent of the average level of alcohol use, binge alcohol use was linked with an almost 3 times increase in the number of concurrent alcohol problems and a 40% increase in the number of alcohol problems prospectively 9 years later. Moderate average level alcohol users accounted for most cases of binge alcohol use and multiple alcohol problems. Among moderate alcohol users, binge alcohol use was linked with a close to 5 times increase in concurrent multiple alcohol problems and a >2 times increase in multiple alcohol problems prospectively 9 years later.
These results substantially broaden an increasing recognition that binge alcohol use is a public health concern among adults. Moderate average-level alcohol users should be included in efforts to reduce alcohol problems in adults. These findings are applicable to primary and secondary prevention of alcohol problems with the potential to advance population health.