How Binge Drinking May Affect Young Adults

By Beth Leipholtz 08/15/18

Young adults who are heavy drinkers may be heightening their risk for future cardiovascular issues, according to a new study.

a group of young adults hanging out in a nightclub

In addition to the obvious effects of excessive drinking, young adults who binge drink may also be at risk of heart disease and stroke as they age. 

Authors of a new study published in Journal of the American Heart Association suggest that the one-in-five college students who binge drink have reason to be concerned for their health. 

In the study, researchers examined the responses of 4,710 individuals between 18 and 45 years old who had taken part in the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between the years 2011 and 2012, and 2013 and 2014. 

Those individuals were then broken into three categories: those who did not drink, those who binge drank 12 or fewer times per year, and those who binge drank 12 or more times per year.

Of the individuals involved, about 25% of men and about 11% of women binge drank “frequently.” For those who binge drank 12 or fewer times per year, 29% of men and 25% of women fell into the category.

Researchers found that those who binge drank frequently seemed more likely to exhibit risk factors such as high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which could lead to cardiovascular issues and strokes later in life.

Researchers also looked at the effects of alcohol consumption on young men versus young women. They concluded that men who binge drank often had higher blood pressure and higher cholesterol than those who did not binge drink often. When compared to low frequency drinkers, women who binge drank had higher blood sugar levels.

Mariann Piano, an author of the study and professor of nursing at Vanderbilt University’s School of Nursing, tells Newsweek that a main takeaway from this study is that risky behavior can be changed. 

"Implementing lifestyle interventions to reduce blood pressure in early adulthood may be an important strategy to prevent cardiovascular disease later in life," she said to Newsweek. "As part of this intervention pattern, young adults should be screened and counseled about alcohol misuse, including binge drinking, and advised on how binge drinking may affect their cardiovascular health.”

This study is only one of a few recent studies focusing on how unhealthy lifestyles in youth can affect them later in life.

In July, researchers in England published a study that found that being overweight as a teen could change the heart’s shape and affect the manner in which it functions.

Like Mariann Piano, Ashleigh Doggett, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, also told Newsweek that habits can be changed at a young age to avoid such dangers later in life. 

"It can be a common misconception that heart-related issues only affect an older demographic, which we know isn’t the case,” she said. “This study highlights the importance of endorsing a healthy lifestyle from a young age—the earlier we reinforce healthier habits, the greater impact it can have."

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Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.