Alcohol Use (Binge Drinking)

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Alcohol Use Profile

Download an in-depth health indicator profile with additional analysis and findings on alcohol use (binge drinking) in Santa Barbara County.

Full Analysis

Excessive alcohol use, such as binge drinking, can increase the risk of various health problems like liver diseases and cancer1. Binge drinking can also lead to injuries from automobile accidents as well as injuries from interpersonal violence2.

Binge drinking was defined as four or more drinks consumed on one occasion for women and five or more drinks consumed on one occasion for men within the past 30 days.

U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends alcohol be consumed in moderation, if at all, and provides further guidelines based on sex and age. Alcohol is not recommended for those under legal drinking age.3

Findings from the 2019 Santa Barbara County CHNA

Santa Barbara County is below the Healthy People (HP) 2020 target for binge drinking overall and for each demographic subgroup. Most impacted demographic subgroups include males, adults aged 18-44 years old, those with some college education, and those with household incomes at or above $75,000 (see figure below).

Additional binge drinking findings from the 2019 Santa Barbara County CHNA can be found in the Binge Drinking Health Indicator Profile. Follow this link to learn more about the methods for health indicator profile analysis.

Figure 1. 2019 Percentage of Adults that are Binge Drinkers by Demographic Group

Figure 1. 2019 Percentage of Adults that are Binge Drinkers by Demographic Group

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Findings from the 2019 Santa Barbara County Listening Tour

Cottage Health and its partners heard from a wide array of leaders and community members through a Listening Tour focused on behavioral health. A full Listening Tour report related to binge drinking can be found in the Binge Drinking Health Indicator Profile.

The Listening Tour results reveal that alcohol use is high among young adults, LGBTQI+ people, and the wealthy because alcohol has become widely socially-accepted. Self-medication with alcohol occurs as people try to cope with mental health challenges, being overworked and living in a place with an exorbitant cost of living, and to escape the painful effects of social marginalization.

Quote from Latinx Community Member

“In a difficult financial situation, you are stressed and worried. So, what leads you to find refuge? You have two things: alcohol and drugs. Something that satisfies me, makes me feel good, helps me to forget the situation, to forget the problem…We are talking about economics, immigration status, family problems, whatever you are experiencing…The only option we have is to use drugs to mitigate pain.”

The recommendations that are grounded in the findings from the Listening Tour include the need for culturally-competent and trauma-informed care. To this end, participants suggested tailoring behavioral health services, such as substance use treatment, to adolescents and young adults, LGBTQI+ people, and Latinx community members.

As a complement to improved healthcare services, examining the social determinants of health and formulating policies for living wages, fair housing, and food security are necessary for addressing health disparities.


1 Boffetta, P., & Hashibe, M. (2006). Alcohol and cancer. The lancet oncology, 7(2), 149-156.

2 Miller, J. W., Naimi, T. S., Brewer, R. D., & Jones, S. E. (2007). Binge drinking and associated health risk behaviors among high school students. Pediatrics, 119(1), 76-85

3 For more information, see: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alcohol use and your health. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm. Accessed July 10. 2020

Behavioral Health Listening Tour

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Learn about the behavioral challenges facing populations in Santa Barbara County and the implications that they have on public health.

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