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New Estimates of the Mean Ethanol Content of Beer, Wine, and Spirits Sold in the United States Show a Greater Increase in Per Capita Alcohol Consumption than Previous Estimates.

  • Author(s): Martinez, Priscilla
  • Kerr, William C
  • Subbaraman, Meenakshi S
  • Roberts, Sarah CM
  • et al.

BACKGROUND:Recent increases in alcohol-related morbidity and mortality have not occurred alongside notable increases in per capita alcohol consumption (PCC). This discrepancy may be partially due to U.S. PCC estimates not including annual estimates of the percentage of alcohol by volume (%ABV) of beer, wine, and spirits, but rather relying on time-invariant %ABV values. METHODS:Building on a prior study covering 1950 to 2002, estimates of the annual mean %ABV of beer, wine, and spirits sold in the United States were calculated using the %ABV of major brands and sales of each beverage type for each state and nationally for the period 2003 to 2016. We applied these estimates to the calculation of annual beverage-specific and total PCC, and made descriptive comparisons between our PCC estimates and those estimates using invariant %ABV values. RESULTS:For all beverage types, our mean %ABV estimates increased nationally and for all but 5 states. The PCC estimates from wine and spirits utilizing variable %ABV values were lower than estimates using invariant %ABV, and consumption from beer was higher. Our total PCC estimates were also lower than %ABV-invariant estimates; however, the percent change for %ABV-invariant estimates was 5.8% compared to a 7.9% change in our %ABV-variant estimates over the 2003 to 2016 period. CONCLUSIONS:Given the application of PCC estimates to understand changes in alcohol-related morbidity and mortality, the inclusion of annual estimates of the %ABV of alcoholic beverages sold in the United States is necessary to ensure the precision of PCC measures such that the conclusions drawn from these applications are accurate and valid.

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