Ky. at or near top of binge drinking measures

Published 3:28 pm Monday, March 26, 2018

Binge drinking in Kentucky, which has been rising in recent years, is now among the heaviest in the nation, and tops in one measure. That’s according to the latest study of the topic, by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC defines binge drinking by consumption of alcoholic drinks in a two-hour period: five or more for men, and four or more for women, given their average weight difference. The study says binge drinking accounts more more than half of the 88,000 annual U.S. deaths attributed to alcohol.

The study was based on self-reporting through the CDC’s continuous survey of adults, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, and was based on data from 2015. In that year, 17 percent of U.S. adults reported at least one binge-drinking episode in the past year.

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In Kentucky, the figure was 16.1 percent, with an error margin of plus or minus 1.5 percentage points.

While the percentage of binge drinkers in Kentucky is about the same or slightly smaller than the rest of the nation, Kentucky’s binge drinkers have more binge-drinking episodes, and drink more during them, than those in other states.

Kentucky led the nation in the number of episodes reported by binge drinkers, at 72.8. Arkansas was second, at 69.6. The national average was 53.

Arkansas led in the total number of drinks people reported taking during binge-drinking episodes, but Kentucky was close behind. Arkansans reported 841, Mississippians reported 831, and Kentuckians were third, with 652. Next came Hawaiians at 611. The national average was 467.

The study also calculated the number of binge drinks per adult in each state. On that measure, Kentucky was eighth, at 94 drinks. The highest was North Dakota, at 128.9 drinks. Alaska had 112.9, Arkansas 111.5, Hawaii 107.4, Wisconsin 105.3, Ohio 102.4 and Michigan 100.5.

Nationally, binge drinking is more common among people 18 to 34, but half of the total binge drinks were consumed by adults over 35. “Total binge drinks per binge drinker were substantially higher among those with lower educational levels and household incomes,” the study says. It adds later, “More than half the alcohol sold in the United States is consumed while binge drinking.”

The first county-level study of alcohol use, released by the University of Wisconsin three years ago, said Kentucky had the largest increase in drinking, heavy drinking and binge drinking from 2005 to 2012.