How Many People Drink Alcohol in the U.S.?

Statistics From the National Survey on Drug Use and Health

People drinking wine together in bar
Inti St Clair / Getty Images

In a survey from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), slightly over half of the surveyed people reported that they are current drinkers. This means that statistically, around half the population of the United States over the age of 12 have consumed alcohol within the last 30 days.

The NSDUH is an annual interview of nearly 270,000 people aged 12 or older, asking about their alcohol and drug use in the past year.

According to figures from the latest (2016) national survey, 50.7 percent of those surveyed said they were current drinkers. That number is down slightly from the 51.7 percent of surveyed drinkers in 2015.

Statistics From NSDUH 2016

The following statistics are from the 2016 NSDUH survey:

  • 80.2 percent of the people surveyed reported that they had consumed alcohol at some time during their lifetime and 64.8 percent said they had consumed some alcohol in the past 12 months.
  • Among the 50.7 percent of current drinkers in 2016, 24.2 percent reported binge drinking in the past month and another six percent reported heavy drinking in the past 30 days.

For the purposes of the NSDUH survey, binge drinking is five or more drinks for males and four or more drinks for females on the same occasion on at least one day in the past 30 days. Heavy alcohol use is defined as drinking five or more drinks for males and four or more drinks for females on the same occasion on each of five or more days in the past 30 days.

All heavy alcohol users reported in NSDUH statistics are also binge drinkers.

Estimated Drinkers by Age Group

Here are the estimated current drinkers, binge drinkers, and heavy drinkers for the following age groups in 2016:

  • Ages 12-13
    • Current Drinkers: 1.4 percent (113 survey respondents)
    • Binge Drinkers: 0.3 percent (26 survey respondents)
    • Heavy Drinkers: 0.0 percent (3 survey respondents)
    Ages 14-15
    • Current Drinkers: 7.9 percent (682 survey respondents)
    • Binge Drinkers: 3.7 percent (322 survey respondents)
    • Heavy Drinkers: 0.5 percent (47 survey respondents)
    Ages 16-17
    • Current Drinkers: 17.7 percent (1,494 survey respondents)
    • Binge Drinkers: 10.2 percent (866 survey respondents)
    • Heavy Drinkers: 1.7 percent (141 survey respondents)
    Ages 18-20
    • Current Drinkers: 39.1 percent (4,979 survey respondents)
    • Binge Drinkers: 26.2 percent (3,327 survey respondents)
    • Heavy Drinkers: 6.9 percent (878 survey respondents)

    Please note that the above current drinkers are all illegal, underage drinkers.

    • Ages 21-25
      • Current Drinkers: 67.6 percent (14,775 survey respondents)
      • Binge Drinkers: 45.4 percent (9,931 survey respondents)
      • Heavy Drinkers: 12.0 percent (2,622 survey respondents)
      Ages 26-34
      • Current Drinkers: 64.1 percent (24,875 survey respondents)
      • Binge Drinkers: 37.2 percent (14,446 survey respondents)
      • Heavy Drinkers: 9.4 percent (3,651 survey respondents)
      Ages 35 and Older
      • Current Drinkers: 52.5 percent (89,817 survey respondents)
      • Binge Drinkers: 21.3 percent (36,408 survey respondents)
      • Heavy Drinkers: 5.2 percent (8,947 survey respondents)

    Estimated Current Drinkers by Gender

    • Ages 12 and Over Males
      • Current Drinkers: 55.3 percent (72,286 survey respondents)
      • Binge Drinkers: 28.9 percent (37,789 survey respondents)
      • Heavy Drinkers: 8.3 percent (10,894 survey respondents)
      Ages 12 and Over Females
      • Current Drinkers: 46.4 percent (64,449 survey respondents)
      • Binge Drinkers: 19.8 percent (27,538 survey respondents)
      • Heavy Drinkers: 3.9 percent (5,394 survey respondents)

    Worried About Your Drinking? Take These Quizzes

    If you're wondering if your drinking level is safe, risky, or harmful, you can check by taking the Alcohol Screening Quiz.

    Do you have withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop drinking? Are your symptoms mild, moderate or severe? Take the Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms Quiz.

    Source:

    Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. Results from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Published September 7, 2017.

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