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Americans Drinking Alcohol More Often

Survey Shows Beer Is Back on Top as Alcoholic Drink of Choice

WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 1, 2006 -- Americans are drinking alcohol more often, and beer is back on top as the beverage of choice, according to a new Gallup Poll.

Although the number of Americans who drink alcohol is holding steady, the poll shows those who drink are imbibing more frequently and drinking more drinks each week compared with a decade ago.

Drinkers are also now slightly more likely to name beer as their alcoholic beverage of choice, which researchers say is a return to the pattern seen before last year's poll when beer and wine tied for the top drink.

American Drinking Habits

The poll, conducted July 6-9 among a national sample of 1,007 people aged 18 and older, showed 64% of Americans say they drink alcoholic beverages.

Researchers say the percentage of Americans who say they drink has changed little over time, averaging about 63% since Gallup began surveying Americans about drinking habits in 1939.

However, the most recent poll shows the frequency of drinking has risen over the last 10 years. The 2006 poll showed 71% of American drinkers said they had an alcoholic drink in the last week, which is significantly higher than the 54% who said the same in 1996.

Also on the rise is the number of drinks Americans are drinking. The poll shows those who drink alcohol report drinking an average of 4.5 drinks per week, compared with 2.8 in 1996.

Recent studies have suggested that drinking alcohol in moderation -- particularly wine -- may promote better health, and researchers say the increase in number of drinks per week may be a reflection of this.

The percentage of drinkers who named wine as their drink of choice has increased steadily from 27% in 1992 to a peak of 39% last year, when it narrowly topped beer in popularity. But beer was the winner in this year's poll with 41% of Americans naming it their drink of choice compared with 33% opting for wine and 23% choosing liquor.

Who's Drinking and Who's Not

Other findings of the survey include:

  • Drinking is less common among lower-income households; 82% of Americans who live in upper-income households (annual incomes of $75,000 or more) say they drink compared with 44% of those with incomes less than $30,000.
  • Senior citizens (over age 65) were less likely to drink than Americans in other age groups.
  • Fewer than half of those who report a strong commitment to their faith said they drink; 48% of weekly churchgoers say they drink alcohol compared with 69% of those who attend religious services less frequently and 72% of those who seldom or never attend.

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