Healthcare Economy

This Is America's Drunkest State

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 29 people die every day in car accidents that involve alcohol impairment. The cost of this to the U.S. economy is about $44 billion a year. Fortunately, many people who are drunk never have the chance to have an accident. One million people are arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics each year. Moreover, drunk driving is just the tip of an iceberg that is a much larger problem.

Alcohol, particularly alcohol abuse, takes a terrible toll on Americans each year. The CDC also reports that excess alcohol abuse leads to nearly 100,000 deaths each year. That translates into about one in 10 deaths of working-age Americans. The cost of alcohol abuse to the economy each year is close to $250 billion. These things do not take into account the damage alcohol abuse takes on families.

The health effects fall into a small number of categories: high blood pressure, stroke, liver disease and cancer. It would be hard to find a list of more dangerous diseases.

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 Tempo identified America’s drunkest state.

Among those considered, we looked at the share of adults who either binge drink or drink heavily. The CHR defines binge drinking as consumption of more than four drinks in a single occasion for women and more than five drinks for men. Heavy drinking is defined as more than one drink a day on average for women and more than two drinks a day for men. Depending on the state, excessive drinking rates range from as low as 11.1% all the way up to 27.1%.

It is important to note that alcohol affects everyone differently and, as a general rule, drinking less is better than drinking more. Additionally, the vast majority of Americans who drink excessively (about 90% of them) do not have a severe alcohol use disorder, a chronic disease commonly referred to as alcoholism.

America’s drunkest state is Wisconsin. Here are the details:

  • Adults binge or heavy drinking: 27.1%
  • Driving deaths involving alcohol: 35.7% (fifth highest)
  • Median household income: $64,168 (21st highest)
  • Adults reporting poor or fair health: 14.8% (12th lowest)

States 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. Note that 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 who 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 see all of America’s drunkest states.