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An Occasion to Drink

For 1 in 8 Americans, taking a sip of an alcoholic beverage is less of a celebratory ritual and more of a start down a dark road. Still, despite the growing population of people with diagnosable alcohol use disorders, alcohol is present in a significant number of social situations.

From birthdays to bachelor parties, the amount of alcohol expected and consumed varies. What type of occasion brings in the most bottles, and who consumes the most? We surveyed over 1,000 Americans about their drinking consumption during these events to find out. Continue reading to see which scenarios may be triggering excessive drinking.

An Alcohol Affair

Most people associate bachelor or bachelorette parties with drinks and dancers, and they may not be wrong. These “last night of freedom” parties were where attendees drank the most, with an average of 5.1 drinks consumed. Celebrating with alcohol continued into the wedding reception, but the average number of drinks consumed dropped to 3.8. Despite this decrease in drinking, more than half of respondents thought a wedding reception was less enjoyable if alcohol was prohibited.

When it came to a night out with friends, only 39 percent of respondents would enjoy it less sans alcohol. Seeing as people can still enjoy a night out without alcohol present, perhaps the increased need for alcohol at weddings isn’t strictly for celebrating, but to help guests feel more comfortable in a larger, more unfamiliar group of people.

The average number of drinks consumed at each event also differed based on the alcohol. At every event analyzed, beer drinkers consumed the most. This may be due to consumers being under the impression that beer is lighter, and that they can consume more drinks without feeling the effects as strongly. While it is true that beer has one of the lowest alcohol contents –5 percent for a regular beer– some craft beers have a greater alcohol content than some wines or mixed drinks. This could be risky if consumers are unaware of this while drinking at these events.

And while a standard glass of wine has an average alcohol content of 12 percent, wine drinkers consumed the smallest average number of drinks across all events.

Drinking Away the Drama

Whether a family is tightknit or stuffing problems under the rug for the sake of blood, family gatherings can be stressful and sometimes full of drama. Rather than turn a celebratory event into a therapy session, people often turn to alcohol to lighten the mood.About half of respondents said consuming alcohol during family gatherings made their family more tolerable. That percentage grew to a whopping 63 percent when looking at a family that often or always drank together. This could be a dangerous trend for those who have issues with alcohol, though. Since the more a family drinks together, the less tolerable they are while sober, drinking to deal with an underlying familial issue is reinforced and can lead an individual to an alcohol use disorder.

The stereotypical drunk uncle may have beenmade popular by comedians, but perhaps there is some truth to the character. According to our study, uncles were the family members most respondents labeled as heavy drinkers. However, 19 percent of respondents labeled themselves as heavy drinkers, more than any female-specific family member.

While it is true thatmen can typically drink more than women without becoming intoxicated due to how alcohol is metabolized, men are also more likely to drink excessively. Seeing as men drink more than women, and individuals drink more with age, the combination of the two may be the true creator of the real-life drunk uncle.

I’ll Drink to That

Whether it’s a small accomplishment or a life-changing event, most people have a specific occasion they deem appropriate to celebrate with an alcoholic drink. Only 13 percent of respondents thought achieving a personal fitness goal was worthy of raising a glass, but 83 percent agreed their birthday was the right time to tip one back. A friend’s engagement was next on the list, beating out a respondent’s own wedding anniversary by one percentage point.

The gender gap in drinking has slowly been shrinking. Perhaps this is why women were more likely to celebrate these occasions with alcohol. The only occasion where men were more likely to take a celebratory drink was finishing a busy workweek. Sixty-seven percent of men believed the start of the weekend was an appropriate reason to drink compared to 64 percent of women.

The greatest difference between the genders was drinking to celebrate purchasing or renting a new home or apartment. Fifty-four percent of women reasoned this was a cause for celebration, compared to 45 percent of men.

Celebrate Safely

Alcohol has become a common guest at most occasions – as a means of celebrating or as a tool to provide relaxation in potentially stressful situations. While it can provide comfort for many, it can also become a stress point for those who may be dealing with dependency issues.

Struggling with an alcohol use disorder is difficult on its own. But being in an environment where alcohol is served and consumed at alarming rates can make sobriety all the more difficult. Being aware of potential triggers at certain events is key to being prepared, but being educated on alcohol dependence and available treatments can be lifesaving.


We surveyed over 1,000 Americans about drinking at events and during holidays. We asked them to describe whether they drank more or less depending on whom they were with, where they were, and the specific occasion. Fifty-two percent of respondents identified as men, 47% of respondents identified as women, and less than 1% identified as a gender not listed by our survey. Results that examined the average number of drinks consumed excluded non-drinkers or individuals who answered they would not drink alcohol during a specific event.

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