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Home » Publications » Surveillance Reports » Surveillance Report #97

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research
Alcohol Epidemiologic Data System

SURVEILLANCE REPORT #97

APPARENT PER CAPITA ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION: NATIONAL, STATE, AND REGIONAL TRENDS, 1977–2011

Robin A. LaVallee, M.P.P.
Heather A. LeMay, B.A.
Hsiao-ye Yi, Ph.D.

CSR, Incorporated1
Suite 1000
2107 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, VA 22201

July 2013


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. HHSN267200800023C 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.

HIGHLIGHTS

This surveillance report on 1977–2011 apparent per capita alcohol consumption in the United States is the 27th 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. The following are highlights from the current report, which updates consumption trends through 2011:

  • In the United States, per capita consumption of ethanol from all alcoholic beverages combined in 2011 was 2.28 gallons, representing a 0.9 percent increase from 2.26 gallons in 2010.

  • Between 2010 and 2011, changes in overall per capita consumption of ethanol included increases in 28 States, decreases in 12 States, and no change in 10 States and the District of Columbia.

  • Analysis of overall per capita alcohol consumption by census region between 2010 and 2011 indicated an increase of 1.3% in the Northeast, 1.4% in the South, and no change in the Midwest or in the West.

  • 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 0.9% each year for the next 9 years to achieve this goal.


INTRODUCTION

This surveillance report on per capita consumption of alcohol in the United States is the 27th 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 2020 for alcohol consumption. This objective is to reduce the national per capita alcohol consumption level to no more than 2.1 gallons of ethanol by 2020 (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2012).

The current report updates the 1977–2010 alcohol consumption trends (LaVallee and Yi 2012) with new data for 2011. Data are presented in three tables. The first table 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 2011. 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.


DATA

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 2011, AEDS received complete beverage sales and/or tax receipts reports from 33 States for beer, 33 States for wine, and 28 States for spirits1. For the remaining States and the District of Columbia, shipments data from beverage industry sources (Beverage Information Group 2012a, 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). Some of the consumption estimates reported in the current report may differ slightly from those published in the previous year due to updates and revisions based on data received after publication.

(1The following 38 States provided alcoholic beverage sales data for beer, wine, and/or, spirits for 2011: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.)

Population Data

State population estimates for persons ages 14 and older were obtained from Internet releases by the U.S. Census Bureau (2012). 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. The most recent revision occurred in the report published in 2012 (LaVallee and Yi 2012). In that report, the 2000s population estimates used in the past were replaced with reestimated intercensal population data that bridge the 2000 and 2010 censuses (U.S. Census Bureau 2011).


METHODS

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.

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.

Population Denominator

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 2011 (Johnston et al. 2012) indicate that 26.9 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.

Limitations

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 and random fluctuation over time.

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 AEDS data reference manual (DRM) on per capita alcohol consumption (Nephew et al. 2004). The DRM can be ordered on NIAAA’s Web site (http://www.niaaa.nih.gov).


REFERENCES

Alcohol Epidemiologic Data System (AEDS). Unpublished data from the 2001–2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2004.

Beverage Information Group. Beer Handbook, 2012. Norwalk, CT: Beverage Information Group, 2012a.

Beverage Information Group. Liquor Handbook, 2012. Norwalk, CT: Beverage Information Group, 2012b.

Beverage Information Group. Wine Handbook, 2012. Norwalk, CT: Beverage Information Group, 2012c.

Campbell, K.E.; Clem, D.; and Williams, G.D. Technical report: 1986–91 per capita ethanol consumption trends using beverage industry shipments data compared to combined sales/tax receipt and shipments data. Working paper prepared by the Alcohol Epidemiologic Data System, NIAAA, Washington, DC, August 1994.

Chen, C.M.; Yi, H.; and Faden, V.B. Surveillance Report #91: Trends in Underage Drinking in the United States, 1991–2009. Rockville, MD: NIAAA,Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research, Alcohol Epidemiologic Data System, March 2011.

Hyman, M.; Zimmerman, M.; Gurioli, C.; and Helrich, A. Drinkers, Drinking and Alcohol-Related Mortality and Hospitalizations: A Statistical Compendium, 1980 Edition. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University, 1980.

Johnston, L.D.; O’Malley, P.M.; Bachman, J.G.; and Schulenberg, J.E. Monitoring the Future, National Results on Adolescent Drug Use: Overview of Key Findings, 2011. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan, 2012.

Kerr, W.C.; Greenfield, T.K.; Tujague, J.; Brown, S.E. The alcohol content of wine consumed in the US and per capita consumption: New estimates reveal different trends. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 30(3):516-522, 2006a.

Kerr, W.C.; Greenfield, T.K; and Tujaque, J. Estimates of the mean alcohol concentration of the spirits, wine, and beer sold in the United States and per capita consumption: 1950 to 2002. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 30(9): 1583-1591, 2006b.

Kling, W. Errata: Measurement of ethanol consumed in distilled spirits. Journal of Studies on Alcohol 52:503–504, 1991.

Kling, W. Measurement of ethanol consumed in distilled spirits. Journal of Studies on Alcohol 50:456–460, 1989.

LaVallee, R.A. and Yi, H. Surveillance Report #95: Apparent Per Capita Alcohol Consumption: National, State, and Regional Trends, 1977–2010. Rockville, MD: NIAAA, Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research, Alcohol Epidemiologic Data System, August 2012.

M. Shanken Communications, Inc. The U.S. Beer Market: Impact Databank Review and Forecast, 1994 Edition. New York: Shanken, 1994.

Nephew, T.M.; Yi, H.; Williams, G.D.; Stinson, F.S.; and Dufour, M.C. Alcohol Epidemiologic Data Reference Manual, Vol. 1, 4th Edition, U.S. Apparent Consumption of Alcoholic Beverages Based on State Sales, Taxation, or Receipt Data. NIH Publication No. 04-5563. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Alcohol Epidemiologic Data System, June, 2004.

U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division. Annual Estimates of the Resident Population by Single Year of Age and Sex for the United States and States: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2011 (SC-EST2011-AGESEX-RES), Washington, D.C.: U.S. Census Bureau, Internet release, May 2012.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Healthy People 2020. Washington, DC. Available at: http://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topicsobjectives2020/objectiveslist.aspx?topicId=40. Accessed July 25, 2012.

List of Figures

Figure 1. Total per capita ethanol consumption, United States, 1935–2011.

Figure 2. Per capita ethanol consumption by beverage type, United States, 1977–2011.

Figure 3. Percent change in per capita ethanol consumption, United States, 1977–2011.

Figure 4. Total per capita consumption of gallons of ethanol by State, United States, 2011.

Figure 5. Percentage change in total per capita ethanol consumption by State, United States, 2010–2011.

Figure 6. Total per capita ethanol consumption by region, United States, 1977–2011.

Figure 7. Per capita ethanol consumption from beer by region, United States, 1977–2011.

Figure 8. Per capita ethanol consumption from wine by region, United States, 1977–2011.

Figure 9. Per capita ethanol consumption from spirits by region, United States, 1977–2011.


List of Tables

Table 1. Apparent per capita ethanol consumption, United States, 1850–2011.

Table 2. Apparent alcohol consumption for States, census regions, and the United States, 2011.

Table 3. Per capita ethanol consumption for States, census regions, and the United States, 1977–2011.



Figure 1. Total per capita ethanol consumption, United States, 1935–2011.

Figure 1
Data for Figure 1.

Figure 2. Per capita ethanol consumption by beverage type, United States, 1977–2011.

Figure 2
Data for Figure 2

Figure 3. Percent change in per capita ethanol consumption, United States, 1977–2011.

Figure 3
Data for figure 3.

Figure 4. Total per capita consumption of gallons of ethanol by State, United States, 2011.

Figure 4
Data for Figure 4

Figure 5. Percentage change in total per capita ethanol consumption by State, United States, 2010–2011.

Figure 5
Data for Figure 5.

Figure 6. Total per capita ethanol consumption by region, United States, 1977–2011.

figure 6
Data for Figure 6

Figure 7. Per capita ethanol consumption from beer by region, United States, 1977–2011.

Figure 7
Data for Figure 7

Figure 8. Per capita ethanol consumption from wine by region, United States, 1977–2011.

Figure 8
Data for Figure 8

Figure 9.  Per capita ethanol consumption from spirits by region, United States, 1977–2011.

Figure 9
Data for Figure 9

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