Binge Drinking – an Important Factor on Life Expectancy


In America today, the availability and prevalence of alcohol has promoted a culture where excessive drinking is accepted and often times encouraged. However, excessive alcohol consumption can not only impact the physical wellbeing of the individual, but also drastically decrease their life expectancy as well. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the definition of binge drinking is, “a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams percent or above.” Binge drinking is directly linked to many chronic health issues such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, liver disease, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, and various forms of cancer. It not only has a link to chronic illnesses, but can have negative impacts on society through increased rates of car crashes, alcohol poisoning, violence and STD contraction (CDC, 2018). Excessive drinking has also led to a great economic burden for the United States. For example, in 2010, alcohol misuse cost the United States $249 billion in lost workplace productivity, criminal justice costs, healthcare expenses, and motor vehicle crash costs (Sacks et al 2015). The Center for Disease Control states that an estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually, which places alcohol as the third leading cause of death in the United States. The prevalence of excessive alcohol use impacts all demographics, from college students to older adults. Nearly 32.6% of Americans have admitted to binge drinking within the past month (NIAAA, 2018). This clearly illustrates the pervasiveness of the alcohol epidemic in the United States and the dire consequences that it can have on the average life expectancy. The serious impacts that excessive drinking can have on the individual as well as the economy shows the need for immediate action by policymakers in the United States

Literature Review

Studies done on the relationship between binge drinking and life expectancy are unambiguous. According to Wood et al. (2018), greater alcohol consumption was associated with higher risk of stroke, coronary disease, heart failure, fatal hypertensive disease, and fatal aortic aneurysm. Subjects were asked to self-report how many grams of alcohol they had consumed per week. It was found that by the age of 40 those who had reported drinking between 100-200 grams, 200-350 grams, and greater than 350 grams saw their life expectancies decrease by 6 months, 1-2 years, and 4-5 years respectively. Another study done by Westman et al. (2014) further suggests a decrease in life expectancy associated with alcohol use disorder. It was found that the people affected by binge drinking saw an average life expectancy of 24-28 years shorter. It was also found that those who were diagnosed with alcohol use disorder had higher mortality rates from all forms of death, diseases and medical conditions, and suicide. This data further supports the claim that as the the amount of alcohol consumed increases, the life expectancy decrease, showing an inverse relationship between the two variables.

Empirical Model

A linear regression model will be used to determine the relationship between binge drinking and life expectancy.

Life expectancy in this model is defined as the number of years a person is expected to live. The independent variable being tracked is the proportion of adults that binge drink. The income variable tracks the median income of individuals by state as well as the percentage of people that are under the federal poverty line. The uninsured variable gives the percentage of the state that doesn’t have medical insurance. Geographic regions are also taken into account, however the northeast has been left out.

Empirical Results

The results show that binge drinking is important when determining life expectancy. With increased rates of binge drinking, a decrease in life expectancy can be expected. A 1% increase in binge drinking results in a life expectancy decrease of .051 years (p-valueTable. 2 Regression Results

However, the data shows that other variables are more important when determining life expectancy in comparison to the prevalence of binge drinking. Higher levels of poverty decreases life expectancy.

Conclusions and Policy Implementation

The results derived from the study have determined binge drinking to be an important factor on life expectancy. The data is consistent with both Wood et al. (2018) and Westman et al. (2014). Both studies had determined that binge drinking leads to a decrease in life expectancy. However, binge drinking is not the foremost cause of a decreased life expectancy. The American government has already tried to implement policies to reduce the prevalence of binge drinking. One was through the prohibition of alcohol, which only served to create a black market for alcohol. Another was raising the minimum age to purchase alcohol from 18 to 21. The best thing to do in this situation is to better educate the population about the long term effects of binge drinking, and the promotion of better drinking habits such as using a designated driver or taxi service. Even the state of Texas liquor laws, which prohibit the sale of liquor past 9PM and Sundays, has proven to be ineffective. Considering the fact that California, a state that has no liquor laws, has the same prevalence of binge drinking as Texas.

One limitation that may skew the results of the study is how binge drinking was defined. Binge drinking in the study was defined as 4 or more drinks for women, and 5 or more drinks for men. However, the study did not take into account the strength of each drink, the volume of each drink, and the size of the individual. All of which are important when determining a person’s blood alcohol content.  

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