One in eight American adults are alcoholics. Here are some more details:
The article by Grant et al describes substantial increases in alcohol use and related problematic behaviors that occurred between the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions evaluations in 2001-2002 and in 2012-2013. The validity of the results is underscored by the impressive methodology, which at each time applied virtually identical well-validated face-to-face interviews and analytic approaches to about 40 000 nationally representative participants 18 years and older. The concept of high-risk drinking demanded 5 drinks per occasion for men (4 for women) at least weekly, with a standard drink defined as 14 g of ethanol, and alcohol use disorders (AUDs) were defined by the DSM-IV.
The results documented substantial increases in the prevalence of past 12-month drinking, high-risk drinking, and AUDs. The largest increase related to the rate of the most serious problems, AUDs overall, which shot up by 49.4%, from 8.5% in 2001/2002 to 12.7% about a decade later. These figures are limited to the past 12-month, or current, diagnoses and do not include individuals who are in potentially temporary remissions. Respondents with lifetime but not current AUDs are also likely to carry future health care costs through enhanced vulnerabilities for cancers, cardiac disease, and other serious disorders associated with histories of heavy drinking.
The overall changes in prevalence over the decade were even greater for several population subgroups including women (an 83.7% increase in AUDs over the 11 years), African American individuals (a 92.8% increase in AUDs), individuals aged 45 years to 64 years and 65 years and older (with 81.5% and 106.7% increases in AUDs, respectively), those with only high school educations (a 57.8% increase in AUDs), and individuals with incomes less than $20 000 (a 65.9% increase in AUDs). During that same period, high-risk drinking, described using the previously mentioned criteria, increased from 9.7% to 12.6% (a change of 29.9%), with similar subgroups as reported for AUDs demonstrating the greatest increases. The proportion of drinkers increased from 65.4% to 72.7% (an enhancement of 11.2%). Similar results have been reported in other national surveys, indicating that the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions findings are not anomalies.
As noted by the authors, in 2010, the cost to society for alcohol-related problems was estimated at $250 billion per year.
There’s no single explanation for the increase. Researchers point to economic stress in the aftermath of the Great Recession; more easily available alcohol at restaurants and retailers; and the diminished impact of alcohol taxes. As a percentage of average income, than at any point since at least 1950.
Pervasive marketing by the alcohol industry and new products such as flavored vodkas or hard lemonade and iced tea may also be driving some of the increases among women and other demographics, says Jernigan.
Of course this also has implications for future health care costs, although whether higher yearly care costs will offset lower life expectancy I do not know. In any case, it is unlikely to boost productivity.