Healthcare Economy

This Is America's Drunkest City

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines being drunk as “having the faculties impaired by alcohol.”

Drinking moderately may be good for the health of some adults, although “moderate” drinking is defined in more ways than one. According to the Mayo Clinic, drinking may help lower heart disease and lower the chances of diabetes. By the same token, the medical center’s doctors say people are better off if they depend on exercise and diet to improve overall health.

Excessive drinking is one of four main risk factors (along with tobacco use, inadequate exercise and poor nutrition) for preventable disease identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In addition to short-term consequences, such as impaired judgment and motor skills, excessive alcohol consumption is associated with liver disease, certain cancers, increased risk of a heart attack or stroke, and poor mental health. Some estimates show drinking kills nearly 100,000 Americans a year, both by causing accidents and undermining good health.

Using data from County Health Rankings & Roadmaps (CHR), a joint program between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, 24/7 Wall St. identified the U.S. metropolitan area with the highest excessive drinking rate. In every metro area considered, more than 22% of adults drink excessively, while nationwide, the excessive drinking rate is 19.2%.

Metro areas are ranked on the share of adults who either binge drink or drink heavily. The CHR defines binge drinking as the consumption of more than four drinks in a single occasion for women and more than five drinks for men, while heavy drinking is defined as more than one drink a day on average for women and more than two drinks a day for men.

The drunkest city in America is Appleton, Wisconsin. Here are the details:

  • Adults binge or heavy drinking: 30.8%
  • Driving deaths involving alcohol: 31.1% (tied for 124th highest)
  • Median household income: $68,335 (84th highest)
  • Adults reporting poor or fair health: 13.5% (25th lowest)

To determine America’s drunkest metro, 24/7 Wall St. aggregated county-level statistics to metropolitan statistical areas. We used the 384 metropolitan statistical areas as delineated by the United States Office of Management and Budget and used by the Census Bureau as our definition of metros.

Metros were ranked based on the excessive drinking rate, which is defined as the share of adults who report either binge drinking or heavy drinking in the past 30 days. While the CHR report is from 2021, excessive drinking rate figures published in the report are from 2018.

Additional information on the share of driving deaths with alcohol involvement and the share of adults that report fair or poor health are also from the 2021 CHR. Median household income data are one-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey.

Click here to read about all of America’s drunkest cities.