Special Report

The Drunkest City in Each State

Source: Wikimedia Commons

46. Virginia
> Drunkest city: Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford
> Pct. of MSA adults binge or heavy drinking: 18.1%
> Pct. of state adults binge or heavy drinking: 16.6%
> Pct. of alcohol related driving deaths: 30.1%

Virginians are on the whole less likely than adults nationwide to drink in excess. Even in the Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford metropolitan area, which has the state’s highest excessive drinking rate, just 18.1% of adults binge drink or drink heavily. This is in line with the national share of 18.0%.

The unhealthy behaviors of Blacksburg residents do not appear to be limited to alcohol consumption. More than 20% of residents are smokers, the highest share in the state and well above the national adult smoking rate of 17%. The area’s poor health choices may have contributed to a higher premature death rate. Of every 100,000 residents, 388 die before the age of 75 due to preventable causes, the second worst premature death rate of the state’s metropolitan areas.

Downtown Bellingham, Washington
Source: Wikimedia Commons

47. Washington
> Drunkest city: Bellingham
> Pct. of MSA adults binge or heavy drinking: 21.8%
> Pct. of state adults binge or heavy drinking: 18.8%
> Pct. of alcohol related driving deaths: 28.4%

Each of Washington’s 11 metro areas has a higher excessive drinking rate than the country as a whole. In the Bellingham metro area, 21.8% of adults either binge or heavily drink, the largest share in the state.

While unhealthy levels of alcohol consumption are relatively common across Bellingham, other unhealthy habits are far less common. Only 13.6% of area adults smoke, and 16.3% do not get any exercise — far lower than both the comparable state and national rates.

Wheeling, West Virginia
Source: Thinkstock

48. West Virginia
> Drunkest city: Wheeling
> Pct. of MSA adults binge or heavy drinking: 14.9%
> Pct. of state adults binge or heavy drinking: 10.3%
> Pct. of alcohol related driving deaths: 29.6%

In Wheeling, 14.9% of adults drink excessively. Though the metro area’s excessive drinking rate is the highest in the state, it is still well below the nationwide excessive drinking rate of 18.0% of adults.

Statewide, binge and heavy drinking are relatively uncommon. Only about one in 10 adults in West Virginia drink to excess, by far the smallest share of any state in the country. The low excessive alcohol consumption rate in the state is likely due to the fact that alcohol sales are prohibited in many counties. The Wheeling metro area is primarily located in the Marshall and Ohio counties, neither of which are dry.

Lawrence University, Appleton Wisconsin
Source: lawrence.edu

49. Wisconsin
> Drunkest city: Appleton
> Pct. of MSA adults binge or heavy drinking: 26.8%
> Pct. of state adults binge or heavy drinking: 23.3%
> Pct. of alcohol related driving deaths: 30.3%

Only North Dakota reports higher alcohol consumption than Wisconsin, where 23.3% of adults report drinking excessively on a regular basis. Appleton is far and away the heaviest drinking city in both the state and the nation, with 26.8% of adults reporting drinking excessively. Despite the more excessive drinking habits, alcohol is involved in approximately 30.3% of driving deaths in the area, well below the statewide alcohol-related driving fatality rate of 37.8%, which is seventh highest compared with other states.

As is generally the case in the cities drinking the most in each state, Appleton residents have higher incomes than Wisconsin residents and people across the nation. The typical Appleton metro area household earns $61,245 annually, higher than the state median income of $55,638 a year and the national median income of $55,775 a year.

50. Wyoming
> Drunkest city: Casper
> Pct. of MSA adults binge or heavy drinking: 18.1%
> Pct. of state adults binge or heavy drinking: 18.5%
> Pct. of alcohol related driving deaths: 35.6%

There are only two metropolitan areas in Wyoming — Casper and Cheyenne. Residents of the area reporting the highest level of excessive drinking, Casper, do not drink much heavier than adults nationwide and actually less than Wyoming residents as a whole. Across the state, 18.5% of adults drink excessively, also right in line with the national excessive drinking level. Alcohol drinkers in Wyoming living outside metro areas likely drive up the overall state percentage.

Alcohol is involved in 35.6% of driving fatalities in Casper, in line with the state percentage — but both are well above the national incidence.

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