What Your Boozing Habits Say About Your Health

Know which type of drinker you are, and whether or not you have a problem.

Are you a "Wine Enthusiast," capable of putting away an entire bottle without a problem? Or are you a "Sipper," who can barely finish a cocktail during a five-course meal? Or maybe you're a "Doesn't-Know-When-to-Stopper," who just hopes against hope to land on the pillow at the end of a long night? (A single "drink" is defined as 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.)

We're asking because your answer will mean the difference between exposing yourself to roughly zero health risks and a 40 percent greater chance of mortality. (Yeah, let's hope you're not a "Doesn't-Know-When-to-Stopper.")

Herewith, we've produced the complete guide for knowing who you are as a drinker, how big of a problem you have (if at all), and what the long-term effects will be. Because if you're going to live your best life, you'll need to know when to say when. And if you need help stopping, start by brushing up on the 40 Science-Backed Ways to Kick Old Habits.

Light drinker

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Amount of drinking: Three drinks or fewer per week.

Types of drinkers:

"The Sipper:" One drink can last you an entire night.

"The Sports Fan:" It's just not right to watch "Monday Night Football" without holding a beer.

How big is the problem?

Drinking alcohol is a problem only if you abuse it, and you are not abusing it. Beware, though: Statistics indicate that one of every 16 social drinkers will become an alcoholic.

Percentage of men who are light drinkers: 40.

Health Effects: None.

Transition drinker, phase 1


Amount of drinking: Increasing from light to moderate.

Types of drinkers:

"The Social Drinker at Dinner:" Hanging with clients and coworkers sure is easier with a martini or two.

"The Escape Artist:" Your spouse is gone and the kids are driving you nuts? Yeah, you're having a bourbon.

How big is the problem?

You used to have a drink here and there, but now there are weeks when you'll have a couple every day. The amount is still safe, but the increase is a warning sign—especially if alcohol abuse is in your family history.

Health Effects: See "Moderate Drinker," below.

Moderate drinker


Amount of drinking: Three to 14 drinks per week, rarely more than four in a day

Common types of drinkers:

"The Wine Enthusiast:" Dinner just tastes better with the right bottle.

"The Nightcapper:" A couple hits of single malt or port help you reflect on the passing day—every day.

"The Life of the Party:" See dancing, hear music, will drink.

How big is the problem?

You can control your drinking, and you're reaping the social and health benefits of alcohol. But remember, 14 drinks per week is getting up there. DUIs and other brushes with the law are suddenly a real possibility if you get careless.

Percentage of men who are moderate drinkers: 22.

Health Effects:

  • Decrease in blood-clot formation
  • 32 percent decreased risk of stroke(two drinks per day)
  • 32 percent decreased risk of heart attack(two drinks per day)
  • Decreased risk of Alzheimer's
  • 40 percent decreased risk of dementia(two drinks per day)
  • Poorer sleep quality

Transition drinker, phase 2

tequila shots

Amount of drinking: Increasing from moderate to heavy.

Types of drinkers:

"The Doesn't-Know-When-to-Stopper:" You're often passed out by the end of the night—with any luck, in your bedroom.

"The Not-So-College-Aged Binger:" You might not be doing keg stands and power hours anymore, but are 10 pints and a few rounds of darts at O'Neill's every Friday and Saturday any different?

How big is the problem?

This is the most dangerous phase because the shift from moderate to dependent use can happen very quickly. The more often you exceed your limit, the more intense your cravings will get and the farther you'll fall into alcoholism. You begin to resent any reference to your drinking habits, even as you lose control of the times, places, and amounts of your drinking. Soon, all of your relationships will suffer.

Health Effects:

Heavy drinker

drunk man Being Single in your thirties

Amount of drinking: 15 or more drinks per week, often more than four a day.

Types of drinkers:

"The Hemingway:" You think drinking is fueling your art, but it's really fueling your depression.

"The Classic Alcoholic:" Heavy daily drinking is your first priority. Everything else gets scheduled around it, if at all.

How big is the problem?

Physical changes in your brain lead to light alcohol cravings. Relationships deteriorate. Repeated problems at work or home occur. All of these are signals that you're abusing alcohol. With late-stage alcohol dependence, serious physical effects, such as tremors, insomnia, hallucinations, delirium, complete rejection of social reality, and malnutrition, begin to take place.

Percentage of men who are heavy drinkers: 6.

Health Effects:

  • Significantly greater progression of carotid atherosclerosis (thickening of the artery walls, restricting blood flow to organs and tissues)
  • 200 percent increased risk of stroke
  • 20 percent greater risk of hypertension
  • Increased risk of alcohol-induced liver disease
  • Increased risk of esophageal cancer
  • 30 per-cent greater risk of peptic ulcers
  • 65 percent greater risk of mortality

If you need help, try these options:

Alcoholics Anonymous: See if it's for you by attending an "open" meeting, which consists of talks by a leader and two or three members. Then progress to a "closed" session.

Smart Recovery: The online support groups are the easiest way to begin facing your problem.

SOS (Secular Organizations for Sobriety): An alternative to the 12-step, support-network approach of AA. It believes purely in self-empowerment and the science behind addiction.

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