- 62% of U.S. adults drink alcohol; 38% abstain completely
- 19% of drinkers say they sometimes overindulge
- Beer still most popular alcoholic drink; liquor battling wine for second place
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The 62% of Americans who currently report that they drink alcohol is in line with Gallup’s 63% average dating back to 1939.
Majorities of Americans have said they had “occasion to use alcoholic beverages such as liquor, wine or beer” over the more than eight decades Gallup has tracked this measure. However, higher readings, peaking at 71%, were recorded between 1974 and 1981.
The latest data, from Gallup’s July 3-27 Consumption Habits poll, finds drinking is more prevalent among Americans in some demographic groups. Middle-aged adults, those with higher incomes, college-educated adults and those who attend church less frequently than once a week are all associated with higher drinking rates than their counterparts.
Nondrinkers’ Reasons for Not Imbibing Vary
Asked in an open-ended question to cite the main reason they do not drink alcohol, nondrinkers most often say they simply have no desire to or do not want to (24%). At the same time, between 10% and 16% of nondrinkers offer variously that they do not like it, it is unhealthy, they are afraid of the consequences, they have had a bad past experience with alcohol, health reasons prevent them from drinking, or it is against their religious beliefs.
Most Drinkers Drank Recently, Fewer Overindulge
Among those who do drink alcohol, 69% report having done so within the past week, including 32% who say it was in the past 24 hours and 37% two to seven days ago. Another 32% say their last drink was more than a week ago. On average, U.S. drinkers report that they had four drinks in the past week, which matches the trend average since 1996.
Roughly one in five U.S. adults who drink alcohol, 19%, say they sometimes drink more than they think they should. This is in line with the previous three readings between 2018 and 2021, but it is below the trend average of 23% since 1978.
When the 13% of nondrinkers who say they don’t drink because of past problems with alcohol are combined with the 19% of drinkers who report drinking more than they should sometimes, the result suggests a population rate of 16% of U.S. adults who may currently struggle with alcohol abuse or did so in the past.
Men are more likely than women to say they sometimes overindulge when drinking, 21% versus 16%. Likewise, adults younger than 35 (22%) and between 35 and 54 (20%) are more likely than those 55 and older (14%) to say they drink to excess. Adults with annual household incomes of at least $100,000 (24%) are more than twice as likely as those with incomes under $40,000 (10%) to say they occasionally drink too much.
Beer Remains Top Alcoholic Drink of Choice in U.S.
In addition to tracking Americans’ drinking habits, Gallup has gauged drinkers' alcoholic beverage of choice in most years since 1992 and has found beer to be significantly more popular than liquor and wine in all but five readings. Currently, 37% of drinkers say they drink beer most often, while 31% prefer liquor and 29% favor wine.
Although it continues to hold on to the top spot, beer is less dominant now than at points in the 1990s and early 2000s, when close to half said it was their preferred alcoholic beverage. Between 2011 and 2013, wine was the second-most-popular drink, essentially tying with beer. However, since then, wine has more clearly trailed beer, with 2023 the first time since 1996 that the former has fallen below 30%. Liquor has mostly lagged behind beer and wine in the popularity trend, with roughly 20% identifying it as their favored drink in most years from 1992 to 2018. However, in the past few years, closer to 30% say liquor is their drink of choice, putting it on par with wine. The 31% of drinkers who currently say liquor is their favorite alcoholic drink is the highest on record by one percentage point.
Drinkers’ alcoholic beverage of choice varies based on their gender, age, education and income level.
- Men are more than twice as likely as women to say they drink beer most often, and women are about three times as likely as men to say wine is their most common beverage.
- Younger drinkers prefer beer and liquor, while older drinkers favor beer and wine.
- A plurality of college graduates drink wine most often, but a similar share of those without a college degree say beer is their preferred beverage.
- Those in the lower- and middle-income groups mainly choose beer as their most preferred drink, while upper-income drinkers are more evenly divided in their preferences.
Americans’ drinking habits are relatively steady, with more than three in five saying they consume alcohol and about one in five drinkers admitting to overindulging sometimes. Beer remains the top drink of choice for Americans, while liquor has been trending up and is now about as popular as wine.
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