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NEWS: Americans Are Drinking [A Bit] More

Love of beer has caused the drinking rate
to edge up slightly. Photo by Odelia | CSP.

The annual Gallup poll of American drinking habits, conducted last month, reveals that drinking rates have edged up slightly to a 25-year high. Beer is the beverage of choice among the largest group of drinkers, followed by wine and then liquor.

Sixty-seven percent of U.S. adults drink alcohol, a slight increase over last year and the highest reading recorded since 1985 (by one percentage point). Thirty-three percent of the responders said they were total abstainers.

The survey asked the question, “Do you have occasion to use alcoholic beverages such as liquor, wine, or beer, or are you a total abstainer?”

One of the most significant predictors of alcohol consumption is church attendance. Those who seldom or never attend church are substantially more likely to say they drink than frequent church-goers. Those who have no religious affiliation, Catholics and non-Christians are more likely to drink than Protestants. Those with the lowest education levels and lowest incomes are less likely to drink than others.

Abstinence is not necessarily a good thing. Medical research shows that moderate drinking is associated with a lower probability of heart trouble, and Gallup has recently confirmed that the incidence of heart attacks increases substantially with age.

Still, the data indicate that many older Americans are not taking advantage of the prophylactic benefit of drinking; 59% of older Americans drink alcohol, substantially lower than the percentages among those who are younger.

The percentage of Americans who say they drink alcohol has been remarkably stable over the 71 years of the Gallup tracking study. The lowest level, 55%, was recorded in 1958. The high point for drinking came in 1976-1978, when 71% said they drank alcohol.

While the study did not address it, the composition of what is drunk may well have changed over the years. Comparatively few Americans drank wine before the California wine explosion of the 1970s, for example.


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