Sipping wine, beer or spirits three to four times per week increases the risk of binge drinking, particularly among young men, according to a new study published in the journal Addiction. Researchers from the Université de Montréal and the University of Western Ontario analyzed the drinking habits of Canadians and found that frequent alcohol consumption can lead to binge drinking among all gender and all age groups.
The study also found that infrequent drinkers rarely exceed two servings when they do consume alcoholic beverages. "The relationship between drinking frequency and consumption per occasion might be both cultural and biological," says study coauthor Andrée Demers, a Université de Montréal sociology professor and director of the Research Group on the Social Aspects of Health and Prevention. "The Canadian drinking culture has a 'time-out' depiction of drinking. Alcohol is a boundary mark between week and weekend, work and leisure, and therefore between routine and time off."
The investigation established one drink as 5 oz. of wine, 1.5 oz. of liquor, 12 oz. of beer or cooler, 3 oz of port, sherry or vermouth. Regardless of drinking preferences, the study found that many Canadians consume alcoholic beverages on a daily basis to experience its mood-altering affects.
Drinking for a festive feeling
"Regular drinking builds up tolerance, therefore daily drinkers will need more than their usual drink or two to make a difference with everyday life and gain that festive feeling," says lead author Catherine Paradis, a Université de Montréal PhD candidate. "That fosters drinking beyond healthy limits – at least sporadically and perhaps weekly – to five drinks or more per occasion. And five units is above the recommended limits of healthy drinking."
Study data was obtained from the GENACIS Canada project, an international collaboration examining how social and cultural variations can influence the drinking habits of men and women. Close to 11,000 respondents – 5,743 women and 4,723 men – were asked to report on their alcohol consumption within the last 12 months. Participants were asked questions such as:
- "How often did you usually have any kind of drink containing alcohol?"
- "How often did you usually have five drinks or more on one occasion?"
According to health-related organizations in Canada and elsewhere, women should never consume more than four drinks per occasion and alcohol is beneficial only when consumed in small quantities. Very little is known concerning the relationship between drinking frequency and risky drinking patterns.
"There is no clear and universal understanding of what is moderate drinking – its meaning varies between cultures and within cultures according to gender, age, socio-economic status and people's self-reported tolerance," says Professor Paradis. "Since regular drinking could increase alcohol abuse, Canadian drinking guidelines should take this aspect of the drinking pattern into account."
This study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
- Paradis et al. The importance of drinking frequency in evaluating individuals' drinking patterns: implications for the development of national drinking guidelines. Addiction, 2009; DOI: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2009.02586.x
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