Alcoholism has been a concern for people of all ages across the United States. From binge drinking problems among teenagers and college students to heavy drinking issues that develop among adults, alcoholism rates have drastically changed for all age groups over the past decades. Despite all efforts of high taxation and increased law enforcement, the problems associated with alcohol consumption have steadily increased throughout history. Today’s social trends, movies, and music have contributed to a culture of partying and getting “wasted” as the accepted way to spend free time. Many celebrations and social gatherings are attended with the full intention of consuming large amounts of the free alcohol.
Alcohol Consumption Trends Among Age Groups
The majority of Americans consume at least four alcoholic drinks, with beer and wine being the most popular beverages, and 70 percent of Caucasian citizens drinking more than those of non-Caucasian background are at 57 percent.
Recent statistics from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows dramatic changes in alcohol consumption among various age groups in the United States:
- Alcohol Consumption: Ages 12-20: The rate of overall alcohol consumption between 2002 and 2012 decreased from 28.8 percent to 24.3 percent. The percentage of individuals who drank heavily (including binge drinking) decreased from 19.3 percent to 15.3 percent during the same time frame. These statistics include both high school students and college students who reported to have drank at some time during the past decade.
- Binge Drinking Among Men and Women: In 2012, women who were polled reported that they binge drank much less than men. 30.4 percent of men who were aged 12 or older admitted to binge drinking at least once a month, while only 16 percent of women admitted to drinking just as much (binge drinking is defined as having five or more drinks during one occasion). 9.9 percent of men admitted to binge drinking on at least five different days during the previous month, while only 3.4 percent of women said they did the same thing.
- The Decline of Driving Under the Influence: Statistics from the past decade have shown a decrease in the amount of people 12 years and older who drove under the influence, from 14.2 percent in 2002 to 11.2 percent in 2012.
Why Alcohol Consumption Has Decreased
Besides education on binge drinking, one of the more popular theories for the decrease in alcohol rates both on a U.S. and worldwide level is the disappearance of cultural boundaries.
The preference in the type of alcoholic beverage influenced by various cultural backgrounds has likely changed over the last decade. As more and more people move overseas and immerse themselves in different countries, drinking habits change. Those who move to the United States from cultures that are known to drink heavily unknowingly scale back their consumption because their new surroundings and the habits of their peers impact personal preferences.
Economic factors over the past decade have likely contributed to the decrease in overall alcohol consumption. During the Great Recession of 2008 and the following three years, unemployment levels were extremely high and wages were cut, forcing people to reduce expenses that weren’t necessary. As a result, Americans were spending less money on going out for drinks and likely purchased beverages for consumption at home that contained a lower alcohol volume rate.
On an international level, various governments have introduced higher taxes on alcoholic beverages to force consumers to cut back on how much they spend, similar to what the United States did with introducing higher taxes for tobacco products.