Americans Are Drinking And Spending More On Alcohol

By Kelly Burch 11/02/18

Researchers found that drinking increased in all subgroups of the population, and most steeply among women, the elderly and minorities.

woman placing a bottle of alcohol in her shopping basket

Americans are spending more on alcohol than ever before and are also reporting higher rates of alcohol use disorder, all while beverage companies are increasing their budgets for alcohol advertising. 

Surprisingly, more than a quarter of Americans don’t drink at all, according to a study reported by 24/7 Wall Street. However, the percentage of Americans who said they have imbibed during the last year has risen steadily, from 65.4% in 2001-2002 to 72.7% in 2012-2013, according to data from the American Medical Association.

The increase wasn’t just among social drinkers—high-risk drinking increased 30% over that period as well, while alcohol use disorder increased nearly 50%. 

Researchers found that drinking increased in all subgroups of the population, and most steeply among women, the elderly and minorities. Authors noted the need for attention to problem drinking. 

“Most important, the findings herein highlight the urgency of educating the public, policymakers, and health care professionals about high-risk drinking and AUD, destigmatizing these conditions and encouraging those who cannot reduce their alcohol consumption on their own, despite substantial harm to themselves and others, to seek treatment,” they wrote.

Research on spending indicates that rates might have continued to rise. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Surveys, Americans spent more on alcohol in 2017 than they did in 2016.

Overall, spending on alcohol has increased 56.6% since 1996, even though the price of booze has not increased substantially during that time. The increase in spending has been sharpest among baby boomers, while millennials spend the least on alcohol. 

“Our findings suggest that older Americans increased their alcohol spending dramatically, which resonates with growing public health concerns pertaining to Baby Boomers and booze,” the authors wrote. “In a related finding, retired professionals spent 186% more money on alcohol. Conversely, those younger than 25 spent less in 2016 than in 1996, attesting to a trend in millennials choosing to live sober.”

With so much spending at play, it’s no wonder that alcohol advertising is a massive industry, especially when it comes to sports. Each year the top 30 alcohol brands spend $764.5 million on sports sponsorship, according to industry data.

Most of that spending is by beer brands, with Bud Light alone spending approximately $250 million per year, more than one-third of the money spent globally on alcoholic beverage sports sponsorship. Heineken spends $118.3 million on sponsorships, while Budweiser spends $84.4 million. 

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.