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Embargoed until Noon ET:January 8, 2013
Contact: Division of News & Electronic Media, Office of Communication
(404) 639-3286

Binge drinking is an under-recognized problem among women and girls

Binge drinking is a dangerous behavior that can lead to tragic circumstances.  It’s not often recognized as a women’s health problem but nearly 14 million U.S. women binge drink about three times a month, and consume an average of six drinks per binge, according to a Vital Signs report released today from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The report highlights how binge drinking puts women at increased risk for many health problems such as breast cancer, sexually transmitted diseases, heart disease, and unintended pregnancy. Pregnant women who binge drink expose a developing baby to high levels of alcohol, which can lead to fetal alcohol spectrum disorders and sudden infant death syndrome.

In addition, the report finds that about 1 in 8 women and 1 in 5 high school girls report binge drinking. Binge drinking was most common among women aged 18-34 and high school girls, whites and Hispanics, and women with household incomes of $75,000 or more. Half of all high school girls who drink alcohol report binge drinking.

Binge drinking is defined as consuming four or more drinks on an occasion for women and girls. Drinking too much, including binge drinking, causes about 23,000 deaths among women and girls in the United States each year

“Binge drinking causes many health problems, and there are proven ways to prevent excessive drinking,” said CDC Director Thomas Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “Effective community measures can support women and girls in making wise choices about whether to drink or how much to drink if they do.”

CDC scientists looked at the drinking behavior of approximately 278,000 U.S. women aged 18 and older for the past 30 days through data collected from the 2011 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, and for approximately 7,500 U.S. high school girls from the 2011 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

The report highlights the Guide to Community Preventive Services (Community Guide), which recommends effective policies to prevent binge drinking.

“It is alarming to see that binge drinking is so common among women and girls, and that women and girls are drinking so much when they do,” said Robert Brewer, M.D., M.S.P.H., of the Alcohol Program at CDC. “The good news is that the same scientifically proven strategies for communities and clinical settings that we know can prevent binge drinking in the overall population can also work to prevent binge drinking among women and girls.”

For more information about binge drinking, visit CDC’s Alcohol and Public Health web site at http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol.  Individuals who are concerned about their own or someone else's binge drinking can call 1-800-662-HELP to receive assistance from the national Drug and Alcohol Treatment Referral Routing Service. For state-specific estimates of alcohol-related deaths and years of potential life lost by condition, age and gender, visit the Alcohol-Related Disease Impact online application at http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/DACH_ARDI/Default/Default.aspx.

Vital Signs is a CDC report that appears on the first Tuesday of the month as part of the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, or MMWR. The report provides the latest data and information on key health indicators. These are cancer prevention, obesity, tobacco use, motor vehicle passenger safety, prescription drug overdose, HIV/AIDS, alcohol use, health care–associated infections, cardiovascular health, teen pregnancy, food safety and viral hepatitis.

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