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  Chapter Eight:

  Health of Children
  Health of Adults
  STDs and AIDS
  Illegal Drugs
  Accidental Deaths
  Hospital Patients
  Health Care Costs
  Mental Patients
  Disabled Persons



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The per capita consumption of alcoholic beverages fluctuated.
No one knows exactly how much illegal alcohol was consumed from 1919 to 1933 when national prohibition was in force. The decline in the consumption of legal alcohol after 1980, the peak year for alcohol consumption in the United States, is well documented, however. Between 1980 and 1997, hard liquor consumption declined by about a third. Beer consumption (equivalent in 1997 to a twelve-ounce beer every day for every person in the country) declined slightly. Wine consumption remained roughly steady. 

The decrease in per capita consumption of alcohol has been plausibly attributed to the aging of the adult population, the increase in the legal drinking age from eighteen to twenty-one, the campaign against drunk driving, and growing concern about alcohol’s health effects. Between 1972 and 1996, the proportion of young adults of both sexes who had some experience with alcohol rose from 82 percent to 90 percent, but heavy drinking seemed to decline. 

Alcohol was an important element in American rituals of sociability. The great majority of American adults and a large minority of adolescents drank on frequent occasions in the company of friends and relatives. Five to 10 percent became physiologically addicted to alcohol, typically with conspicuous damage to their health, their work, and their relationships. About the same percentages engaged in antisocial actions such as drunk driving and impulsive assault. A study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimated that 107,400 Americans died in 1992 from the effects of alcohol, about a third from drinking-related injuries, and the remainder from alcohol-related diseases. A large proportion of the injuries involved sober persons who got in the way of a drunk driver or someone on a binge.

Chapter 8 chart 5

Source Notes
Source Abbreviations

SA 1959, table 1071; SA 1979, table 1431; SA 1988, table 186; SA 1995, table 227; SA 1998, tables 237 and 249; and SA 1999, table 252. For information on effects of alcohol, see National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “The Economic Costs of Alcohol and Drug Abuse in the United States—1992” at (accessed September 18, 2000).


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