Background: The Healthy People 2010 goals include reducing the proportion of U.S. adults whose alcohol consumption exceeds recommended daily and weekly limits, relative to baseline levels observed in 1991–1992. To date, there has been no assessment of initial progress toward attaining these goals.
Methods: Consumption data from the 1991–1992 National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiology Survey (n= 42,862) and the 2001–2003 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (n= 43,093) were used to evaluate the trend in the proportion of U.S. adults adhering to and exceeding recommended drinking limits. These included weekly limits of no more than 14 standard drinks for men and no more than 7 standard drinks for women and daily limits of no more than 4 standard drinks for men and 3 standard drinks for women. The percentages exceeding the limits are compared for the two time periods, for the total adult population and sociodemographic subgroups, and the association between risk drinking and sociodemographic characteristics is disaggregated into a series of conditional odds ratios.
Results: The proportion of U.S. adults classified as regular drinkers whose intake exceeded recommended daily or weekly limits declined from 32.1% to 29.3% in the 10-year period. The reduction in risk drinking occurred solely among persons who exceeded the daily drinking limits less than once a week but did not exceed the weekly limits. There was a very small but significant increase in the proportion of adults exceeding the weekly limits, from 9.4% to 10.3%. Reduction of sociodemographic disparities in adherence to drinking limits was limited.
Conclusions: Progress to date is limited and may reflect changes in population composition rather than changes in drinking habits. Attainment of Healthy People goals and reduction of disparities in risk drinking will require sustained effort and more targeted prevention programs.