A recent study of adults with moderate alcohol consumption found that binge drinking was predictively linked to multiple alcohol problems.
Researchers analyzed 1,229 people who currently drank alcohol (mean age, 55.5 years; 52.1% male) and were ages 30 years and older from two waves of the study of Midlife Development in the United States who reported drinking at a moderate level on average. Baseline data were collected between 2004 and 2006, and follow-up data were collected between 2013 and 2015. Participants answered questions about how often they drink any alcoholic beverages and, when they do consume them, how many drinks they have, on average. The researchers defined moderate drinking as the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism cutoff for low-risk drinking (i.e., one or fewer drinks per day for women and two or fewer for men). To assess for a regular or binge pattern of drinking, researchers asked participants how many times they consumed five or more drinks on the same occasion (i.e., drinks in a row or in a short period of time). They used a negative binomial regression analysis to examine the association of an average level of drinking and a binge pattern of drinking at baseline, controlling for one another, with the number of alcohol problems at follow-up. Results were published June 9 by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Overall, those who drank moderately accounted for 70.8% of cases of binge drinking at baseline and 67.0% and 79.2% of cases of multiple alcohol problems at baseline and nine years, respectively. For men, those who drank moderately accounted for 73.3% of cases of binge drinking at baseline and 70.1% and 84.9% of cases of multiple alcohol problems at baseline and nine years, respectively. For women, those who drank moderately accounted for 62.9% of cases of binge drinking at baseline and 60.5% and 64.3% of cases of multiple alcohol problems at baseline and nine years, respectively. Compared with a regular pattern of drinking, a binge pattern of drinking was independently and significantly associated with an increase in the number of alcohol problems nine years later (odds ratio, 1.40; 95% CI, 1.05 to 1.83). A person's average level of drinking was not associated with the number of alcohol problems at follow-up.
Among other limitations, the data were self-reported and are subject to recall bias, common method variance, and social desirability, the study authors noted. They added that because the sample underrepresented non-White participants, caution is needed when generalizing the findings to minority populations. The results support including adults who drink moderately on average in public health efforts to reduce binge drinking, the authors said. “These results substantially broaden an increasing recognition that binge drinking is a public health concern among adults,” they wrote.