Distribution of Drinks Consumed by U.S. Adults by Average Daily Alcohol Consumption: A Comparison of 2 Nationwide Surveys


      Estimates of alcohol consumption in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System are generally lower than those in other surveys of U.S. adults. This study compares the estimates of adults’ drinking patterns and the distribution of drinks consumed by average daily alcohol consumption from 2 nationwide telephone surveys.


      The 2014–2015 National Alcohol Survey (n=7,067) and the 2015 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (n=408,069) were used to assess alcohol consumption among adults (≥18 years), analyzed in 2019. The weighted prevalence of binge-level drinking and the distribution of drinks consumed by average daily alcohol consumption (low, medium, high) were assessed for the previous 12 months using the National Alcohol Survey and the previous 30 days using the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, stratified by respondents’ characteristics.


      The prevalence of binge-level drinking in a day was 26.1% for the National Alcohol Survey; the binge drinking prevalence was 17.4% for the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. The prevalence of high average daily alcohol consumption among current drinkers was 8.2% for the National Alcohol Survey, accounting for 51.0% of total drinks consumed, and 3.3% for the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, accounting for 27.7% of total drinks consumed.


      National Alcohol Survey yearly prevalence estimates of binge-level drinking in a day and high average daily consumption were consistently greater than Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System monthly binge drinking and high average daily consumption prevalence estimates. When planning and evaluating prevention strategies, the impact of different survey designs and methods on estimates of excessive drinking and related harms is important to consider.
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