Health >> Alcohol

Alcohol:  Summary and Data Highlights

Seattle has the highest rates of both excessive drinking and binge drinking. 

Excessive alcohol use is associated with many chronic health problems, including liver disease, inflammation of the pancreas, high blood pressure, stroke, and various cancers. It is also a factor in many injuries and acts of violence, and can harm a developing fetus. 

The term “excessive drinking” includes binge drinking (5 or more alcoholic drinks on a single occasion for men, 4 or more for women, 5 or more on a single occasion in the past 2 weeks for teens) and heavy drinking (an average of more than 2 drinks per day for men, more than 1 drink for women), categories that cannot be summed since they often overlap. For most of the analyses on adult drinking, 3 years of survey data were combined (2009, 2010, and 2011). Data on teens came from a 2010 survey administered in schools.

Region mattered for adults, but not for teens.

  • Seattle’s rates of binge drinking (20%) and excessive drinking (23%) were higher than the rates of binge and excessive drinking in East Region (15% and 16%, respectively).
  • Teen alcohol use was similar across all regions (results not shown).

Overall Rates

  • Averaging data from 2009 through 2011, 19% of King County adults were excessive drinkers.
    • 17% were binge drinkers.
    • 6% were heavy drinkers. (Some were both heavy and binge drinkers; to avoid counting the same person twice, the numbers of binge drinkers and heavy drinkers should not be added.)
    • Adults age 18 to 64 were 2 to 3.6 times more likely to drink excessively than adults 65 and older.
  • Among teens, binge drinking and alcohol use during the past 30 days differed by grade level:
    • 12th graders: 39% currently used alcohol; 24% binged
    • 10th graders: 25% currently used alcohol; 14% binged
    • 8th graders:  11% currently used alcohol; 6% binged

Trends

  •  Excessive Drinking in Adults
    • From the time when these data first became available (in 2005) to 2011, excessive drinking increased in South Region (from 16% to 21%), North Region (from 11% to 17%), and in King County overall (from 16% to 19%) (data not shown).
    • From the beginning of the recession (2007) to 2011, however, no significant trends emerged in any region or in King County as a whole (data not shown).
  • Among King County 8th graders, current alcohol use and binge drinking decreased between 2004 and 2010.  Over the same period, 12th grade rates remained high.

Gender

  • Among adults, males (22%) were more likely than females (16%) to drink excessively.
  • Among teens, males (25%) and females (26%) did not differ in their rates of alcohol use.

Disparities

  • Race/Ethnicity
    • Only 6% of Asian adults drank excessively – a rate lower rate than all other racial/ethnic groups except Blacks (13%), whose rate did not differ significantly from Asians.
    • Averaging data from grades 8, 10, and 12, Asian teens reported the lowest rate (15%) of using alcohol in the past 30 days. At 24%, the rate for Black teens was below that for Hispanic (30%) and American Indian/Alaska Native (32%) teens.
  • Employment:  At 22%, employed and unemployed adults were equally likely to drink excessively, and more than twice as likely to drink as adults who were retired (9%).
  • Sexual Orientation:  Heterosexual adults (19%) were less likely to drink excessively than those who were lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transsexual (27%).
  • Income and Education:  Excessive drinking did not vary by income or education.

Family Composition

  • Adults in a couple relationship (18%) were less likely to drink excessively than those without a partner (21%).