When data from the National Alcohol Survey (NAS) are released, our scientists update the drinking norms for the US. The most recent data from the 2020 NAS draw on the drinking patterns of individuals residing in 50 states and Washington, DC and look at the number of drinks both women and men said they consumed per week on average in the previous 12 months.
As a practitioner, one way to assess your clients’ drinking habits is to have them compare their current consumption level to how much the rest of the nation is drinking.
Ask your client to add up how much they usually drink in a week. They’ll need to think about how many glasses, bottles, or cans of alcoholic beverages they consumed in a typical 7 day period including weekdays and weekends. You may want to review with them how a standard drink is defined and how to measure it.
Once they’ve added up the number of drinks, use the table below to find the number of drinks that matches your client’s then look at the percentage in the right-hand column. The percentage tells you the number of women or men out of 100 people drink as much or less than your client.
|DRINKS PER WEEK||Men*||Women*||Total*|
* Results rounded to the nearest percentile.
The NIAAA weekly volume guideline is not to exceed 14 drinks per week for men and 7 drinks per week for women. (Daily guideline is no more than 4 drinks in any day for men, and 3 drinks in any day for women.) Refer to the U.S. low-risk drinking guidelines.
As you can see, for men, the drinking norms or the typical number of drinks per week, overall, were higher than for women. Twenty-eight percent of men reported that they abstained from drinking completely (38% of women) during the last 12 months. As another example, about three-quarters (78)% of men reported drinking 7 or fewer drinks in a typical week (or one drink a day or less on average) while for women about 90% consumed 7 or less drinks/week.
Keep in mind that while overall “average volume” of alcohol consumption increases risks of health harms including various types of cancer (Nelson et al., 2013) for risks of social and health harms it is not only your average weekly intake that matters, it is also pattern of drinking. Those who have an average intake of even 7-14 drinks a week but occasionally “binge” (5 or more drinks in a day for men, 4 or more drinks in a day for women) are known to have higher risks of negative health outcomes including alcohol dependence (Greenfield et al, 2014), injuries and DWI (Cherpitel et al, 2010) and even dying of ischaemic heart disease (IHD; Roerecki et al. 2011), compared to those getting the same average intake by more evenly drinking alcohol in smaller regular amounts (Rehm, Greenfield & Kerr, 2006).
To help your clients change their drinking patterns, you can download the drinking norms infographic (PDF) and ask them to share it with friends and family. You can also provide them with the low-risk drinking guidelines, NIAAA’s Rethinking Drinking or suggest they consult Miller & Muñoz’s book, Controlling Your Drinking: Tools to Make Moderation Work for You.
Source: 2020 National Alcohol Survey of 9,668 individuals. Alcohol Research Group, 6001Shellmound Street, Suite 450, Emeryville, California 94608. www.arg.org
Courtesy of Drs. Thomas K. Greenfield firstname.lastname@example.org and Priscilla Martinez email@example.com, National Alcohol Survey, NIAAA-supported Alcohol Research Center Grant (P50AA005595; PI William C. Kerr, PhD); with thanks to Biostatistician Yu Ye firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please cite the above source and funding.