Among college women, the numbers are much higher – as many as 20 percent engage in binge drinking each month. And, overall, the report finds, the incidence of binge drinking increases as household income increases. Sixteen percent of binge drinking women come from households earning more than $75,000 annually. For women, a “binge” is considered four or more alcoholic beverages in a singles session, while for men, it is five or more.
These women, however, are not dependent on alcohol and the concerns over these statistics stem from fears over preventable death and unintended pregnancies. Excessive alcohol consumption is third leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. Some experts speculate this rise in female binge drinking is related to well-targeted marketing.
David Jernigan, a specialist in alcohol policy at Johns Hopkins, told NPR News, “Virginia Slims was the beginning of an increase in cigarette smoking for women. The equivalent in alcohol has been the rise of these products we call ‘alcopops.’ They’re fruity, bubbly, brightly colored. On college campuses they’re known as ‘chick beer.’”
Of course, just as soda companies are fighting connections between sugar-sweetened soft drinks and obesity, alcoholic beverage companies disagree with the notion that their products have anything to do with the rise in binge drinking among the female population. In fact, their sources point out that teenage drinking is at an all-time low and that no evidence exists linking their products or marketing strategies to binge drinking.
The CDC’s report did not examine the reasons behind the increased prevalence of binge drinking, but the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) believes that action needs to be taken. The USPSTF recommends that healthcare providers begin screening women, including pregnant women, for alcohol misuse. You can learn more about the USPSTF recommendations to curb binge drinking by visiting The Community Guide – an online guide published for community intervention of issues related to preventive health.