National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research
Alcohol Epidemiologic Data System
SURVEILLANCE REPORT #95
APPARENT PER CAPITA ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION: NATIONAL, STATE, AND REGIONAL TRENDS, 1977–2010
Robin A. LaVallee, M.P.P.
Hsiao-ye Yi, Ph.D.
2107 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, VA 22201
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Public Health Service
National Institutes of Health
1 CSR, Incorporated, operates the Alcohol
Epidemiologic Data System (AEDS) under Contract No. HHSN267200800023 for the
Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research, National Institute on Alcohol
Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Dr. Rosalind A. Breslow serves as NIAAA Project
Officer on the contract.
This surveillance report on 1977–2010 apparent per capita alcohol consumption in the United States is the 26th in a series of consumption reports produced annually by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Findings are based on alcoholic beverage sales data, either collected directly by the Alcohol Epidemiologic Data System (AEDS) from the States or provided by beverage industry sources. Population data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau are used as denominators to calculate per capita rates. In this report, the 2000s population data used previously in this series were replaced with the reestimated intercensal population data that bridge the 2000 and 2010 censuses. This resulted in minor changes (mainly slight decreases) in calculated per capita consumption for the 2000s compared with prior reports in this series (see page 2 for details).
The following are highlights from the current report, which updates consumption trends through 2010:
In the United States, per capita consumption of ethanol from all alcoholic beverages combined in 2010 was 2.26 gallons, representing a 1.3 percent decrease from 2.29 gallons in 2009.
Between 2009 and 2010, changes in overall per capita consumption of ethanol included increases in 19 States, decreases in 27 States and the District of Columbia, and no change in 4 States.
Analysis of overall per capita alcohol consumption by census region between 2009 and 2010 indicated an increase of 0.4% in the Northeast and decreases of 1.7% in the Midwest, 1.4% in the South, and 2.1% in the West.
Healthy People 2010 has set the national objective for reducing per capita alcohol consumption to no more than 1.96 gallons of ethanol. This objective was not met. The 2010 per capita consumption was 2.26, which represents an increase from the baseline of 2.14 gallons in 1997.
Healthy People 2020 has set the national objective for per capita alcohol consumption at no more than 2.1 gallons. Per capita consumption would need to decrease by 0.7% each year for the next 10 years to achieve this goal.
This surveillance report on per capita consumption of alcohol in the United States is the 26th in a series of reports that examine alcohol consumption trends on a national, State, and regional basis. Like previous reports on per capita alcohol consumption, it is intended to provide updated alcohol information for policymakers, health care providers, researchers, and others concerned about alcohol issues.
Data presented in this report are related to one of the national objectives set in Healthy People 2010 (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2000) for alcohol consumption. This objective is to reduce the national per capita alcohol consumption level to no more than 1.96 gallons of ethanol by 2010 (National Center for Health Statistics 2008). Healthy People 2020 updates this objective to no more than 2.1 gallons (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2012).
The current report updates the 1977–2009 alcohol consumption trends (LaVallee and Yi 2011) with new data for 2010. Data are presented in three tables. The first one presents national data on trends in beer, wine, and spirits consumption, as well as on all alcoholic beverages combined. The second table presents data on alcohol consumption for individual States for 2010. States also are ranked in deciles according to per capita ethanol consumption. The third table presents data on consumption trends for each type of beverage and all beverages combined for the States as well as for the four regions defined by the U.S. Census Bureau—Northeast, Midwest, South, and West.
Alcohol Consumption Data
AEDS makes every effort to obtain alcoholic beverage sales data from all States and the District of Columbia because sales data more accurately reflect actual consumption of alcoholic beverages than do production and shipments data from beverage industry sources. For 2010, AEDS received complete beverage sales and/or tax receipts reports from 33 States for beer, 33 States for wine, and 27 States for spirits1. For the remaining States and the District of Columbia, shipments data from beverage industry sources (Beverage Information Group 2011a, b, c) were used for the numerator to calculate per capita consumption. Although sales and tax receipt data tend to provide slightly lower per capita estimates (about .01 to .02 points per capita), the mixed use of data from sales and shipments sources appears to have little effect on overall trends in per capita alcohol consumption (Campbell et al. 1994).
(1The following 36 States provided alcoholic beverage sales data for beer, wine, and/or, spirits for 2010: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.)
State population estimates for persons ages 14 and older were obtained from Internet releases by the U.S. Census Bureau (2011). These data are used as denominators to calculate the per capita consumption figures.
To make the trend data more precise, AEDS revises data published in previous reports when the Census Bureau makes major revisions to its population estimates. In the current report, the 2000s population estimates used previously in this series were replaced with the reestimated intercensal population data that bridge the 2000 and 2010 censuses (U.S. Census Bureau 2011). Because the new population estimates were generally higher than the old estimates for the second half of the decade, this revision resulted in slight decreases in calculated per capita ethanol consumption for those years.
Conversion of Ethanol Content
AEDS uses an estimate of average ethanol content in the alcoholic beverages to convert the gallons of sold or shipped beer, wine, and spirits into gallons of ethanol (pure alcohol) before calculating per capita consumption estimates. The ethanol conversion coefficients (ECC, i.e., proportion of pure alcohol for each beverage type) are 0.045 for beer, 0.129 for wine, and 0.411 for spirits.
AEDS has considered changes in the alcoholic beverage market that may affect the ECCs used in the current report. For instance, the introduction of “light” beer, “light” wines, and coolers (both wine and spirits) may have slightly lowered the average ethanol content in some alcoholic beverages. Kling (1991, 1989) suggests that there were decreases in the ethanol content of spirits during the 1980s. However, such decreases may be offset by the increase in sales of drinks with higher ethanol content, such as premium brand liquors, fortified wines, malt liquors, and locally produced beers and ales (microbrews). “Ice” beers and “dry” beers, for example, both have higher ethanol content than either premium or light beers (M. Shanken Communications, Inc. 1994). Therefore, changes in the average net ethanol content across all beverages have probably been minimal and not large enough to alter the trends in overall per capita consumption.
Recent studies by Kerr and colleagues (2006a, b) estimated national average and State-specific ECCs for beer, wine, and spirits in each year. Their method derived ECCs for each beverage type based on three components of data: (1) market shares for subcategories within the beverage type (e.g., table wine, wine coolers, etc., within wine); (2) market shares for leading brands in each subcategory; and (3) ethanol contents of these leading brands. Their findings suggest that in 2002, the national average ethanol content was 0.0467 for beer, 0.1145 for wine, and 0.3690 for spirits. Their State-specific estimates indicate that ECCs for all beverage types varied by State and over time. AEDS compared per capita consumption estimates derived by Kerr and colleagues with data presented in this surveillance report. Results revealed that cross-State correlations between the two data sets are higher than 0.99 for all three beverage types. Similar patterns also were observed in national trends between the two sets of estimates, although some differences in absolute values existed and fluctuated over time. Given the fact that Kerr and colleagues applied their ECCs to the same AEDS beverage volume data to derive their per capita consumption estimates, it was concluded that consumption trends are mainly driven by beverage volumes rather than changes in the ECC estimates.
Because most of the analyses provided in this surveillance report are focused on consumption trends over time, and because of the time- and labor-intensive nature of estimating the ECC every year for each State, AEDS will continue to use the current fixed set of ECCs. However, we will monitor the market changes by conducting periodic analysis of the ECCs.
AEDS uses the population of persons ages 14 and older to calculate per capita consumption rates. Although age 14 is below the minimum legal age for the purchase of alcoholic beverages throughout the United States, most self-report surveys indicate that many 14-year-olds drink alcoholic beverages. For example, data from the NIAAA 2001–2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions indicate that 12.2 percent of current drinkers ages 18 and older in the United States began drinking at age 15 or younger (AEDS 2004). Results from the Monitoring the Future survey in 2010 (Johnston et al. 2011) indicate that 29.3 percent of eighth graders (13- to 14-year-olds) reported past-year use of alcohol (i.e., beyond a few sips). Also, using data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2009, Chen and colleagues (2011) found the median age of initiation of alcohol use among 12- to 20-year-olds to be 14.
Individuals familiar with survey reports and other scientific literature often are accustomed to the presentation of significance tests, or confidence intervals, on any data comparisons or trends. However, because data presented in this report are based on total actual sales and/or shipments, no measures of statistical significance are provided. Nonetheless, it is important to note that these data are still only estimates and may be subject to reporting error.
In addition to ECCs, many factors may result in inaccuracies in estimates of per capita alcohol consumption. For instance, these estimates in some States may be inflated by such factors as cross-border sales to buyers from neighboring States (e.g., in New Hampshire) or tourists’ consumption of alcohol (e.g., in Washington D.C.). Other factors include: variation in State reporting practices for sales of alcoholic beverages; time delay between State taxation records and actual consumption; exclusion of alcohol contained in medications and foods; unrecorded legal home production; and illicit production, importation, and sales. These factors are discussed in detail in the latest AEDS data reference manual (DRM) on per capita alcohol consumption (Nephew et al. 2004). The DRM can be ordered on NIAAA’s Web site (www.niaaa.nih.gov).
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List of Figures
Figure 1. Total per capita ethanol consumption, United States, 1935–2010.
Figure 2. Per capita ethanol consumption by beverage type, United States, 1977–2010.
Figure 3. Percent change in per capita ethanol consumption, United States, 1977–2010.
Figure 4. Total per capita consumption of gallons of ethanol by State, United States, 2010.
Figure 5. Percentage change in total per capita ethanol consumption by State, United States, 2009–2010.
Figure 6. Total per capita ethanol consumption by region, United States, 1977–2010.
Figure 7. Per capita ethanol consumption from beer by region, United States, 1977–2010.
Figure 8. Per capita ethanol consumption from wine by region, United States, 1977–2010.
Figure 9. Per capita ethanol consumption from spirits by region, United States, 1977–2010.
Table 1. Apparent per capita ethanol consumption, United States, 1850–2010.
Table 2. Apparent alcohol consumption for States, census regions, and the United States, 2010.
Table 3. Per capita ethanol consumption for States, census regions, and the United States, 1977–2010.