Interesting article by Join Together’s Bob Curley!
A new federal report may not show how many Americans are in recovery from alcoholism, but it does provide interesting insights into the number of adults who have quit drinking or abstain for health and other reasons.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics estimated in its Health Behaviors of Adults: United States, 2005-2007 report (PDF) that 61.2 percent of American adults currently drink alcohol, but that 24.6 percent are lifetime abstainers and 14.3 percent of Americans call themselves former drinkers.
Of the latter, 8.1 percent said they are former infrequent drinkers, while 6.2 percent classified themselves as former regular drinkers. Pat Taylor, executive director of Faces and Voices of Recovery, said more research is needed on why people decided to stop drinking, particularly those who formerly were regular drinkers.
“Until we understand that, we won’t be able to help the over 22 million Americans still struggling with alcohol and other drug problems,” said Taylor.
Men (67.6 percent) were more likely than women (55.3 percent) to be current drinkers. More white adults were current drinkers (64.2 percent) than members of any other ethnic group; Asians were the least likely to drink (43.1 percent).
Most of the current alcohol users surveyed were considered to be light drinkers (29.3 percent), while 14.4 percent were classified as moderate drinkers, 12.3 percent were considered infrequent drinkers, and 5 percent were labeled heavy drinkers (having more than 7 drinks per week for women, or more than 14 drinks per week for men, on average, during the past year).
The study found a distinct correlation between income and education level and alcohol use, but not one that fits with the stereotype of the poor, ignorant drunk. In fact, current drinking levels increased steadily alongside education, with holders of masters, doctorate, or medical degrees far more likely to drink (73.9 percent) than individuals who did not graduate from high school (44.3 percent). The richest Americans also were much more likely to drink than those living below poverty level.
Interesting, the inverse was true among those adults who had chosen to quit drinking: holders of the most advanced degrees were half as likely to have ended their former infrequent or regular drinking as high-school dropouts, and poor Americans likewise were more likely to have stopped drinking than richer ones.
One in Five Americans Still Smoke
Smoking remains stubbornly persistent in certain U.S. populations despite decades of health warnings: according to the NCHS report, 20.4 percent of American adults are current smokers.
The good news: 21.1 percent of U.S. adults said they had quit smoking, and 58.5 percent said they never smoked. Sixteen percent of adults lit up daily, while 4 percent said they smoked less than once a day. Daily smokers consumed an average of 17 cigarettes per day, compared to 5 per day for non-daily smokers (on the days that they smoked).
About 4 in 10 smokers said they had tried to quit during the year prior to the survey. The report found that 31.8 percent of current smokers started smoking before age 16, while just 17.1 percent began at age 21 or older. Men were more likely than women to smoke, but were more apt to quit smoking, too.
The report, based on 2005-2007 National Health Interview Surveys, also looked at sleep, obesity and exercise rates among American adults. “Despite evidence of the potential harm of some health behaviors and substantial efforts to disseminate this information to the public, many Americans continue to engage in health behaviors that put them at risk of chronic disease and disability,” the report stated.