New Study out of Loma Linda University Reviews Binge Drinking Among California Adults

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Data looks at multiple race/ethnicity categories and covers a wide spectrum of socio-demographic characteristics.

Binge drinking does not necessarily equate to alcoholism, but it can be dangerous and a serious problem.

A new study out of Loma Linda University (LLU) provides binge drinking population estimates for California adults by gender and detailed race/ethnicity categories. The study was published online on Feb. 12, 2014 in “The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse.”

Other research has shown that more than half of all alcohol consumed in the United States is in the form of binge drinking, which is defined as five or more drinks in one sitting for men and four for women. Binge drinking causes over 40,000 deaths every year in the US and has been linked to domestic abuse and violence, academic and personal problems, risk-taking behaviors, physical injury to self and others, driving while intoxicated, and failure to adhere to medications.

Data for the present study came from the 2007 and 2009 California Health Interview Surveys (CHIS), included responses from 98,662 adults, and covered a wide spectrum of socio-demographic characteristics. Results are representative of all adults in California.

Jim Banta, PhD, MPH, from the Center for Leadership in Health Systems at LLU School of Public Health and lead researcher of the study, commented that, “The major contribution of this study is that it provides binge drinking rates by gender, for greater detail in race/ethnicity compared to most other reports, and is adjusted for age and other factors, such as education.” For example, CHIS has detailed data regarding Asian Americans by nationality, who as a group, generally, have low rates of binge drinking. There is variability not often detected when looking at Asians as a group; for example, an estimated 28.1% of Korean men binge drink, compared to 11.9% of Chinese men.

Non-Hispanic whites have the highest rate of any binge drinking as well as the highest frequency of binge drinking during the past year compared to other racial/ethnic groups. Mexican and Central American men as well as “other Latino” (non-Hispanic) women are significantly more likely than whites to occasionally binge drink, that is, at least once a year, but less than monthly. Consistent with other published research, the present study also shows that men are more likely than women to binge drink.

Additional highlights from the study suggest that immigrants, particularly females, are less likely to binge drink, as are individuals who attended graduate school. However, individuals from households with an annual gross income of more than $150,000 are more likely to binge drink.

Banta has been working with CHIS data for approximately six years in collaboration with Mark G. Haviland, PhD, Department of Psychiatry at LLU School of Medicine, and a co-researcher on this study. “An advantage of CHIS data for examining binge drinking is that it evaluates drinking over the past 12 months, whereas many federal studies only evaluate the past 30 days. Thus, we are more likely to pick up occasional binge drinking,” Haviland said.

Banta expressed his concerns over binge drinking and his motivation for this study. “Simply put, binge drinking is not healthy,” he said. “Binge drinking does not necessarily equate to alcoholism, but it can be dangerous and a serious problem, nevertheless. The information in this report may be helpful for planning targeted initiatives to decrease binge drinking, among those at greatest risk as well as for those who may binge drink only occasionally.”

Also contributing to the study is Pamela E. Mukaire, MEd, MPH, DrPH(c), Department of Health Promotion and Education.

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Briana Pastorino
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