Data & Statistics
Prevalence of FASDs
- We do not know exactly how many people have fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). Several different approaches have been used to estimate how many persons are living with FASDs in the population. FASDs include several diagnoses related to exposure of the baby to alcohol during pregnancy. More specifically, fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is the most involved diagnosis, used when several physical and developmental abnormalities are present (see Facts about FASDs).
- Using medical and other records, CDC studies have identified 0.2 to 1.5 infants with FAS for every 1,000 live births in certain areas of the United States.1 The most recent CDC study analyzed medical and other records and found FAS in 0.3 out of 1,000 children from 7 to 9 years of age. 2
- Studies using in-person assessment of school-aged children in several U.S. communities report higher estimates of FAS: 6 to 9 out of 1,000 children. 3,4
- Few estimates for the full range of FASDs are available. Based on the National Institutes of Health-funded community studies using physical examinations, experts estimate that the full range of FASDs in the United States and some Western European countries might number as high as 1 to 5 per 100 school children (or 1% to 5% of the population).3,4,5
Cost of FASDs
- The lifetime cost for one individual with FAS in 2002 was estimated to be $2 million. This is an average for people with FAS and does not include data on people with other FASDs. People with severe problems, such as profound intellectual disability, have much higher costs. It is estimated that the cost to the United States for FAS alone is over $4 billion annually. [Read summaryexternal icon]
Trends in Alcohol Use Among Pregnant Women in the United States, 2011–2018
A 2020 report published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that both current alcohol use and binge drinking among pregnant women aged 18–44 years in the United States increased slightly from 2011 to 2018.
- Current drinking (having at least one drink of any alcoholic beverage in the past 30 days) increased from 9.2% in 2011 to 11.3% in 2018.
- Binge drinking (having four or more drinks on an occasion during the past 30 days) increased from 2.5% to 4.0% in that same time period.
The data for this report come from CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.
Screening for alcohol use combined with brief counseling by healthcare providers may decrease alcohol use during pregnancy and the risk of FASDs.
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Key Findings: Alcohol use and binge drinking among pregnant women aged 18–44 years – United States, 2015–2017
In a 2019 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) article, CDC researchers found that about 1 in 9 pregnant women reported drinking alcohol* in the past 30 days. Among pregnant women, about one third who reported consuming alcohol engaged in binge drinking.† Pregnant women who reported binge drinking in the past 30 days reported an average of 4.5 binge drinking episodes during that same time period.
Alcohol exposure during pregnancy can be harmful to the brain of a developing baby and may result in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). Screening for alcohol use, combined with brief counseling, may decrease alcohol use during pregnancy and reduce the risk of FASDs and other negative pregnancy and birth outcomes.
* Drinking alcohol was defined as having at least one drink of any alcoholic beverage in the past 30 days.
† Binge drinking was defined as having consumed four or more drinks on at least one occasion in the past 30 days.
CDC Report: Screening for Alcohol Use and Brief Counseling of Adults – 13 States and the District of Columbia, 2017
Binge drinking increases the risk for injuries, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, and some chronic diseases like breast cancer. This report found that although 81% of US adults in 13 states and Washington, D.C. reported being asked by their healthcare provider about alcohol use, only about 38% reported being asked about binge drinking during a routine checkup in the last 2 years. Binge drinking is 5 or more drinks on an occasion for men and 4 or more for women. Among adults who reported being asked about their alcohol use at a checkup in the past 2 years and reported current binge drinking, 80% (or 4 of 5 persons) were not counseled to reduce their drinking. Routine alcohol screening and brief counseling has been shown to be effective at reducing binge drinking and is recommended for all adults.
Alcohol Use Data Sets
Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS): This telephone survey tracks national and state-specific health risk behaviors of adults, aged 18 years and older, in the United States. The BRFSS is administered and supported by the Division of Adult and Community Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, CDC.
National Health Interview Survey (NHIS): The NHIS is a multi-purpose nationwide household health survey of the U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population conducted annually by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), CDC, to produce national estimates for a variety of health indicators.
National Survey on Drug Use and Healthexternal icon: This survey provides information on the prevalence, patterns, and consequences of alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drug use and abuse in the general U.S. population, 12 years and older. It is conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administrationexternal icon.
Alcohol-Related Disease Impact (ARDI): This software, supported by CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, generates estimates of alcohol-related deaths and Years of Potential Life Lost (YPLL) due to alcohol consumption.
1 CDC. Fetal alcohol syndrome-Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, and New York, 1995-1997. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2002;51(20):433-5. [Read article]
2 CDC. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Among Children Aged 7-9 Years – Arizona, Colorado, and New York, 2010. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2015;64(3):54-57. [Read article]
3 May PA, Baete A, Russo J, Elliott AJ, Blankenship J, Kalberg WO, Buckley D, Brooks M, Hasken J, Abdul-Rahman O, Adam MP, Robinson LK, Manning M, Hoyme HE. Prevalence and characteristics of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Pediatrics. 2014;134:855-66. [Read summaryexternal icon]
4 May PA, Gossage JP, Kalberg WO, Robinson LK, Buckley D, Manning M, Hoyme HE. Prevalence and epidemiologic characteristics of FASD from various research methods with an emphasis on recent in-school studies. Dev Disabil Res Rev. 2009;15:176-92. [Read summaryexternal icon]
5 May PA, Chambers CD, Kalberg WO, Zellner J, Feldman H, Buckley D, Kopald D, Hasken JM, Xu R, Honerkamp-Smith G, Taras H, Manning MA, Robinson LK, Adam MP, Abdul-Rahman O, Vaux K, Jewett T, Elliott AJ, Kable JA, Akshoomoff N, Falk D, Arroyo JA, Hereld D, Riley EP, Charness ME, Coles CD, Warren KR, Jones KL, Hoyme HE. Prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders in 4 US Communities. Journal of American Medical Association. 2018;319(5):474–482. [Read articleexternal icon]