Alcoholic beverages are enjoyed responsibly by millions of Americans every day. Nearly 60% of adult men and 51% of adult women drink regularly, according to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an annual survey of more than 67,000 U.S. residents.
Many people, however, also report heavy use of alcohol. Approximately 19% of adults in the U.S. report regularly consuming unhealthy amounts of alcohol. In some states, excessive drinking rates are higher.
24/7 Tempo reviewed the adult excessive drinking rate in every state from the 2020 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps (CHR), a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute joint program, to identify the states with the lowest and highest shares of people reporting binge or heavy drinking.
Excessive drinking, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, includes binge drinking, which is defined as four or more drinks on a single occasion for women and five or more for men. Excessive drinking also includes heavy drinking, which is defined as eight or more drinks per week for women and 15 or more for men.
The states with the highest excessive drinking rates are concentrated in the Midwest, while those with the lowest rates are mostly southern states. For example, 10 of the 15 states with the highest excessive rates are in the Midwest, including all of the top six. Seven of the 10 states with the lowest rates of excessive drinking are in the South.
Roadway fatalities involving alcohol are one of the most common causes of preventable death in the United States. Nearly 28% of all fatal car accidents in the country involve an alcohol-impaired driver. Not surprisingly, states with higher excessive drinking rates are more likely to have deadly roadway accidents involving alcohol. All but one of the 15 states with the largest shares of adults binge drinking or drinking heavily have above average rates of alcohol-related roadway fatalities.
In the short term, excessive drinking can increase the likelihood of violence, risky sexual behavior, alcohol poisoning and injuries. The potential long-term effects of excessive alcohol consumption include alcohol dependence, heart disease, liver disease, certain types of cancer and mental health problems, including depression.
To identify the drunkest state in America, 24/7 Tempo reviewed the percentage of men and women 18 and over who report excessive drinking in every state. Health outcomes, including the percentage of driving deaths that are alcohol related and the percentage of adults who report being in fair or poor health are also from the CHR.
All data is as of the most recent available year. Social and economic factors, including poverty rates, are from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey.
Wisconsin is the drunkest state in America. Here is the 24/7 analysis:
> Adults drinking excessively: 24.2% (U.S. share: 19.0%)
> Pct. driving deaths that are alcohol related: 36.2% — sixth highest (U.S. share: 27.8%)
> Adults in poor or fair health: 16.7% — 23rd lowest (U.S. share: 17.2%)
> Poverty rate: 10.4% — 16th lowest (U.S. rate: 12.3%)
> Drunkest metro area in Wisconsin: Madison
> Adults drinking excessively in Madison: 27.8% (the highest among all 384 metro areas)
> Drunkest county in Wisconsin: Pierce
> Adults drinking excessively in Pierce County: 28.6% (the highest among all 3,142 counties)
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