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JAMA. 2003 Feb 26;289(8):989-95.

Alcohol consumption and expenditures for underage drinking and adult excessive drinking.

Author information

  • 1The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, 633 Third Ave, New York, NY 10017, USA.

Erratum in

  • JAMA. 2003 Apr 9;289(14):1782.



Although estimates of the amount and proportion of alcohol consumed by underage and adult drinkers have been reported, more accurate estimates are possible and the economic impact has not been explored.


To provide accurate estimates of underage and adult excessive drinking and to describe consumer expenditures linked to underage and adult excessive drinking.


Information was obtained from national data sets, including 1999 versions of the National Household Survey of Drug Abuse, the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), the Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), 2000 US Census, and national data on consumption and consumer expenditures for alcohol, published by Adams Business Research.


A total of 217 192 persons aged 12 years or older across 3 data sources.


Amount as a proportion of total alcohol consumed and proportion of consumer expenditures on alcohol among underage (12-20 years) and adult excessive (> or =21 years) drinkers.


The proportion of 12- to 20-year-olds who drink was estimated to be 50.0% using data from the YRBS; the proportion of adults aged 21 or older who drink was estimated to be 52.8% using data from the BRFSS. The estimated total number of drinks consumed per month was 4.21 billion; underage drinkers consumed 19.7% of this total. The amount of adult drinking that was excessive (>2 drinks per day) was 30.4%. Consumer expenditure on alcohol in the United States in 1999 was $116.2 billion; of that, $22.5 billion was attributed to underage drinking and $34.4 billion was attributed to adult excessive drinking.


These data suggest that underage drinkers and adult excessive drinkers are responsible for 50.1% of alcohol consumption and 48.9% of consumer expenditure.

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