ATLANTA (Reuters) - It's not college students or teenagers but rather middle-aged Americans who are most likely to die from drinking too much alcohol too quickly, according to a study released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday.
An average of six people die each day in the United States from alcohol poisoning or excessively high levels of alcohol in the blood, which is typically caused by binge drinking, the federal study found.
Three out of four of those who died were between the ages of 35 and 64, the study found, countering the popular perception that young people are more likely than their elders to die from binge drinking.
Only 5.1 percent of the deaths were drinkers between the ages of 15 and 24, the study found.
"Contrary to conventional wisdom, there is a lot of binge drinking going on by people who are post college-age," the study's co-author, Robert Brewer, told reporters. "We were surprised by these findings."
The CDC defines binge drinking as consuming four or more drinks for women or five or more drinks for men on a single occasion.
Fewer than a third of the people who died of alcohol poisoning were considered alcoholics, the study found.
Analyzing death certificate data from 2010 through 2012, researchers found that an average of 2,200 people, more than half of them white males, died from alcohol poisoning each year.
State death rates ranged from a low of 5.3 deaths per million residents in Alabama to a high of 46.5 deaths per million residents in Alaska. The regions with the highest death rates were the Great Plains, the West and New England.
"Living in geographically isolated rural areas might increase the likelihood that a person with alcohol poisoning will not be found before death or that timely emergency medical services will not be available," the researchers wrote.
Editing by Jonathan Kaminsky and Will Dunham