Throughout the year 2021, the average individual in the United States consumed 2.51 gallons of ethanol, the alcoholic component found in wine, beer, and spirits. This figure can be compared to the consumption of 2.53 gallons per person in 1860, which marked the brink of the Civil War.
According to Hilary Sheinbaum, author of “The Dry Challenge,” people tend to increase their alcohol consumption during stressful periods. It serves as a vice that provides relaxation and comfort.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines a “standard drink” as 0.6 fluid ounces of ethanol. Based on this measurement, the average American aged 14 and above consumes approximately 535.5 standard drinks in a year.
In 1980, alcohol consumption in the United States reached its highest point, with an average of 2.8 gallons per person. However, 2021 experienced the largest two-year increase since 1969, with a rise of 5.5%. This year also marked a significant 60% increase in liquor consumption compared to the mid-1990s.
Between 2020 and 2021, different regions of the country saw varying increases in alcohol consumption. The Northeast witnessed a 5.4% rise, the South experienced a 3.4% increase, the West saw a 2.3% uptick, and the Midwest had a 1.6% growth.
Sheinbaum highlighted the widespread availability of alcohol in daily life, emphasizing that it is more accessible than ever before. Alcohol can be found in various forms, from handheld cocktails to being sold at gas stations.
Over the past two years, the popularity of canned alcoholic beverages, including ready-to-drink cocktails commonly referred to as RTDs, has soared. In fact, sales of RTDs have seen a remarkable growth of 127%, according to the alcohol home-delivery service Drizly.
The COVID-19 pandemic also had an impact on drinking habits. A study conducted by the American Psychological Association in 2021 found that nearly a quarter of adults increased their alcohol consumption to cope with stress during the pandemic.
In 2020, alcohol sales experienced a substantial 2.9% increase, the largest annual rise in over 50 years, as reported by the NIAAA. Additionally, liquor stores were classified as “essential businesses” in many states.
A study conducted by the nonprofit research institute RTI International revealed that mothers with children under the age of 5 increased their alcohol consumption by nearly 325% from the start of the pandemic until the end of 2020.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), women should consume no more than one standard alcoholic beverage per day, while men should limit their intake to no more than two.
While some studies suggest potential health benefits of light to moderate alcohol consumption, others have found that any amount of alcohol could elevate the risk of developing health complications.
For instance, one study indicated that women who consume two or more drinks per day have an increased risk of premature death compared to those who abstain from alcohol entirely. Men, on the other hand, face an increased risk of death when consuming three or more alcoholic beverages.
Excessive alcohol use has been responsible for over 140,000 deaths in the United States annually between 2015 and 2019. This figure equates to more than 380 deaths per day, according to data from the CDC.
As many individuals in the United States struggle with managing their alcohol consumption, an increasing number of millennials and members of Generation Z are adopting a sober lifestyle for the sake of their health.
The emergence of the post-pandemic “zero proof” movement has led to an abundance of mocktail options and the establishment of nonalcoholic bottle shops and dry bars, bringing a trendy twist to the concept of abstaining from alcohol.
However, experts remain concerned about the alcohol habits of Americans. Hilary Sheinbaum emphasized that any lifestyle change takes time and effort. It is important to address and manage alcohol consumption for the overall well-being of individuals and society as a whole.