Erie Vital Signs

Health Behaviors and Disease Prevention: Binge Drinkers

Recent Performance

This trend is mixed or inconclusive.

Health survey data suggest that binge drinking has steadily declined in Erie County over the past few years, but still remains a significant health risk for adults. The CDC considers binge drinking to be a growing national problem.

In Erie County, the percentage of adults who admitted binge drinking increased in 2013* from the rate reported in 2011, according to the latest data available. Despite this uptick, the binge-drinking rate has fallen from 25 percent of adults in 2001 to 22 percent in 2013. Nevertheless, the binge drinking rate among Erie County adults is still higher than the 18 percent average rate across Pennsylvania and the 17 percent rate for the nation.

Demographic comparisons of binge drinkers show that men are nearly twice as likely to admit binge drinking than women. And some of the highest rates of admitted binge drinking are found among 18-29 year olds (31 percent), college graduates (25 percent) and adults earning $50,000 a year or more (31 percent).

Driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious health and safety issue that remains a concern in Erie County. Although the percentage of adults who drove at least once in the previous month when they’d had too much to drink has fallen from 6 percent in 2007 to 4 percent, the rate is still higher than the statewide average.

*2013 indicates data for the period 2011-13.

Note: Much of the data for the Health Indicators come from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) Survey. Each metro area decides whether or not to participate each year, so these indicators often do not have data for every year for every metro area. As a result, the graphs show markers (dots, diamonds, etc.) for the individual years rather than lines. If there are data for consecutive years, the markers will be joined with a line on the graphs.

The Basics

This indicator reports the percentage of Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) Survey respondents who answered the question: Considering all types of alcoholic beverages, how many times during the past 30 days did you have X (5 for men, 4 for women) or more drinks on an occasion? Any response greater than zero to this question is considered binge drinking. One drink is equivalent to a 12-ounce beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, or a drink with one shot of liquor.

Why is this important?

According to the "CDC - Chronic Disease - Excessive Alcohol Use - At A Glance," binge drinking is associated with many health problems, including:

  • Motor vehicle crashes and deaths
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Risky sexual behaviors resulting in HIV infection, other sexually transmitted diseases, and pregnancy
  • Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders
  • Alcohol dependence
  • Liver disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Certain kinds of cancer
  • Learning and memory problems, including dementia and poor school performance
  • Mental health problems, including depression and anxiety
  • Social problems, including lost productivity, family problems, and unemployment
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Poor control of diabetes

The Details

The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) Survey is a telephone based health survey of adults age 18 and above. Both landline and cell phone users are included. Initiated in 1984 by the CDC, it is now administered nationally, statewide, regionally, and locally. The survey focuses on health care access, health conditions, risk behaviors, and preventive health practices. Standardized questions allow comparison among various population groups. For 2013, Erie County used 3-Year Sum County Level data, for years 2011-2013, which was provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Similar 3-Year Sum data for Pennsylvania was used for comparison.

The Nitty-Gritty Details


This EVS indicator has no subcategories. The raw data for Erie County do provide data for subcategories based on sex, age, education, income, and race.

Peer Areas

The BRFSS data are available for Erie, the state of Pennsylvania, and the United States. Data is also available for the following thirteen of the standard peer selected metropolitan/micropolitan statistical areas (MMSAs): Akron OH, Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton PA-NJ, Boulder CO, Cedar Rapids IA, Flint MI, Gainesville FL, Green Bay WI, Kalamazoo-Portage MI, Lansing-East Lansing MI, Laredo TX, Peoria IL, Roanoke VA, and Spartanburg SC.


Erie County completes a BRFSS every four to five years. The survey is administered every year at the state and national level.


Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey, administered by the Erie County Department of Health following guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pennsylvania Department of Health 3-Year Sum County Level data. Links to the data are given above under “All the Nitty-Gritty Details”.

Other Related Data

Additional Studies and Research

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