Binge drinking during the pandemic — or not

binge drinking
“Forgive me, mom. I didn’t know wine with dinner would turn me into a binge drinker.”

One study says one out of three Americans are binge drinking during the pandemic; another says worldwide booze consumption will fall 8 percent this year

The Wine Curmudgeon has been trying to avoid writing wine and health posts on the blog for almost as long as the blog has been around. But then something happens, and I am forced to take keyboard in hand again.

This week, a Texas study claimed one in three of us are binge drinking during the pandemic. Meanwhile, a leading alcohol market consultancy says global booze consumption will fall eight percent this year, and “beverage alcohol volume consumption during the pandemic was down across almost all markets.” The U.S. and Canada were the exceptions – up a gigantic two points.

Sigh. Am I the only one who notices these contradictions?

Apparently not, given how much of this we’ve seen over the past couple of years, and especially during the pandemic. In this, the Mainstream Media will leap on the binge study to report we’re all passed out in front of our loved ones, reduced to a combination of drool and spittle.

So, once again, I will perform my journalistic duty and point out why the binge study can claim what it claims – and why these sorts of health studies are notoriously unreliable.

• The binge study lumps all alcohol together, which strikes me as problematic. Is binge drinking spirits worse than binge drinking wine? Does one binge one type of alcohol more than the other? Where does beer fit in? Or hard seltzer? Do we need a study to answer these questions? (That’s sarcasm, by the way.)

• The definition of binge drinking is full of holes – “four alcoholic beverages per occasion.” As noted here before, that makes anyone who drinks wine with dinner a binge drinker. Even the study’s authors acknowledge this problem, writing that the study didn’t take into account the time frame for drinking – four drinks in 20 minutes vs. four drinks in four hours. Which makes me ask: So what use is the study?

• The study acknowledges that many Americans don’t drink, then ignores that to come up with the one-third number. Hence, one-third is probably a lot less if we take non-drinkers into account. Which makes me ask again: So what use is the study?

• Serious sampling errors. The authors write that the study is skewed toward rich, white people, which might mean its “alcohol consumption is overestimated compared to the general population.” Which makes me ask a third time: So what use is the study?

Please, someone, stop these health researchers before they study again.

Photo courtesy of TheJournal.ie, using a Creative Commons license

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