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Keywords:

  • Alcohol;
  • Alcohol Abuse or Dependence;
  • Binge Drinking;
  • Drinking Patterns;
  • Heavy Episodic Drinking

Background

Most alcohol-related research has focused on northern and eastern Europe and the United States. Data on Mediterranean countries point to drinking patterns approaching the sporadic and excessive patterns found in northern and eastern Europe. This is the first study to estimate the prevalence of binge drinking (BD) and the joint distribution of BD, regular heavy alcohol consumption, and alcohol abuse or dependence (AAD) in a nationally representative sample of the adult population of Spain.

Methods

Cross-sectional study conducted in 2008 to 2010 with 9,130 persons aged 18 to 64 years. BD was defined as intake of ≥80 g of alcohol in men (≥60 g in women) during any drinking occasion in the previous month, with ≥3 BD episodes discriminating between frequent and sporadic BD. Regular alcohol consumption was measured with a validated diet history, and the threshold between moderate and heavy drinking was ≥40 g of alcohol/d in men (≥24 g in women). AAD was defined by a CAGE score ≥2.

Results

BD prevalence was 10% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 8.8 to 11.2) in men and 4.2% (95% CI: 3.5 to 4.8) in women, and proved highest among 18- to 24-year-olds (19.5% in men and 10.3% in women). During the latest BD episode, men consumed a mean of 114 g of alcohol versus 85.3 g in women; spirits accounted for 65.2 and 66.2% of total intake, respectively. The mean number of monthly BD episodes was 2.3 in men and 2 in women. Among binge drinkers, 61% were 18- to 34-year-olds, over 80% had regular moderate drinking, 25% reported frequent BD, and 22.8% reported AAD. In multivariate analyses, sporadic BD and frequent BD were associated with AAD independently of regular alcohol intake.

Conclusions

Prevalence of BD in Spain is moderately high. Prevention interventions should consider that the majority of binge drinkers are young men with regular moderate consumption and no AAD traits.