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If one glass of wine or one beer takes the edge off, why not have a few more? Well, this thinking may help explain new findings published in The Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry. As NPR's Allison Aubrey reports, the study finds that a growing number of Americans are drinking more than they should.
ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: To assess drinking trends in the U.S., researchers did face-to-face interviews with tens of thousands of adults. They went into people's homes and asked a series of questions. Study author Deborah Hasin of Columbia University says the questions get at both how much people are drinking and whether alcohol is becoming a problem.
DEBORAH HASIN: One question is if they ever drank five or more drinks on an occasion and, if so, how often?
AUBREY: Hasin says that compared to previous surveys, they found that over the last decade, the number of high-risk drinkers has increased from about 10 percent of adults to about 13 percent.
HASIN: We found that both alcohol use and high-risk drinking, which is sometimes called binge drinking, increased over time and with some particularly large increases found in women and individuals with lower incomes.
AUBREY: Now, it's not clear what's behind the increase. The new study doesn't answer that question. But Hasin says people do use alcohol to cope.
HASIN: Increasing numbers of people feel pessimistic about their economic chances.
AUBREY: And she says changes in how alcohol is marketed may play a role, too.
HASIN: Looking at the increases among women, I can tell you just looking sometimes in the display windows of liquor stores, you see everything's pink. It's all rose. And you know, it really seems designed to appeal to women.
AUBREY: Some beer makers have sharpened their pitch to female drinkers, too. This is a Coors Light campaign.
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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: What would we be without our mountains?
AUBREY: The ad shows women doing yoga, marathon running and hiking.
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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Because every climb deserves a refreshing finish.
AUBREY: The new study results suggest that many people may either ignore the risks of alcohol or not realize when they're drinking too much.
BOB BREWER: Excessive alcohol use is a huge public health problem in the United States.
AUBREY: That's Bob Brewer. He's a physician who studies alcohol use at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
BREWER: We estimate there are about 88,000 deaths due to excessive alcohol use in the United States each year.
AUBREY: That's more than the number of people who die from opioid overdoses or in car crashes. So when does drinking become excessive or risky?
BREWER: Ninety percent of people in the United States who drink to excess are binge drinkers.
AUBREY: Binge drinking may sound like an all-night bender, but Brewer says here's the reality.
BREWER: Binge drinking we would define as four or more drinks within an occasion for a woman or five or more drinks within an occasion for a man.
AUBREY: So for an evening out, if you start with a cocktail or two and then have beer or wine with dinner, it soon adds up.
BREWER: It can be tricky sometimes for people to really keep track of the actual number of drinks that they're consuming.
AUBREY: He points out one drink is a small, five-ounce serving of wine. And a shot of liquor counts as one drink, too. But oftentimes cocktails have more than that. Then there's beer.
BREWER: A lot of beer now, particularly craft beers, may have higher alcohol content. So if you have 12 ounces of beer that has, let's say, a 9 percent alcohol content, you're really drinking the equivalent of close to two drinks.
AUBREY: And Brewer says it's worth reminding people that U.S. guidelines recommend that women limit alcohol to no more than one drink a day and no more than two for men. Allison Aubrey, NPR News.
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