Is Binge Drinking a Bigger Problem in the U.S.?

Binge drinkers consume alcohol in large enough quantities to get legally drunk in two hours or less. In the U.S., people on drinking binges account for an astounding 90% of all the alcohol consumed by underage drinkers, and over 50% of all the alcohol consumed by drinkers of legal age. However, is binge drinking a bigger problem in the U.S. than in the rest of the world? A comparison with alcohol usage patterns in Europe will help us answer this question.

U.S. Binge Drinking Facts and Figures

In America, the percentage of people who binge on alcohol is highest among adults between the ages of 18 and 34. Despite this fact, individuals over the age of 64 who binge on alcohol actually engage in the practice more often than their younger counterparts (between five and six times each month, on average). About 17% of all American adults go on alcohol binges once a week (i.e., four times per month). Generally speaking, you have increased chances of binging if:

  • You are male, and/or
  • Have a high household income (at least $75,000 a year)

Binging participation drastically increases your chances of:

  • Qualifying as a heavy drinker, and
  • Driving while drunk

In some cases, people who participate in binge drinking stop monitoring their alcohol intake and get drunk more or less unintentionally. However, significant numbers of bingers knowingly strive for intoxication.

Binge Drinking in Europe

In 2008, the German Headquarters for Addiction, European Commission and Institute of Alcohol Studies, London presented an analysis of the drinking behaviors of the 25 countries then belonging to the European Union. The results of this analysis showed that about 15% of all Europeans age 15 or older binge on alcohol once a week (slightly higher than the 17% rate for U.S. adults). However, the rate of binging varies widely on a country-by-country basis. The two countries with the highest percentages of bingers are the United Kingdom and Ireland. People in France engage in the practice less often than the residents of any other European nation. Despite America’s somewhat higher percentage of adult binge drinkers, European teenagers may actually binge on alcohol more often than American teenagers. Figures from 2015 indicate that an average of 35% of European teens go on binges at least once a month. In comparison, just 11% of U.S. teens go on alcohol binges in any given two weeks. This figure points to a monthly rate of 22%, substantially lower than the European rate. As in America, significant numbers of Europeans who take part in binge drinking stop monitoring their intake while consuming alcohol.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Fact Sheets – Binge Drinking German Headquarters for Addiction: Binge Drinking and Europe University of Michigan: Compared with Europe, American Teens Have High Rates of Illicit Drug Use                                                                                            

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