Special Report

America's Drunkest States

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45. New Mexico
> Adults drinking excessively: 13.8%
> Alcohol-related driving deaths: 32.1% (25th highest)
> Adults in fair or poor health: 20.2% (8th highest)
> Drunkest metro area: Santa Fe, NM

Some 13.8% of adults in New Mexico binge drink or drink heavily, a smaller share than the 18.0% of American adults who do. Despite the lower excessive drinking rate, the state reports poorer health outcomes such as an above average premature death rate and a higher share of adults reporting being in fair or poor health.

In general, states that have smaller shares of adults who drink heavily are likely to have lower incomes. New Mexico is one such example with a median household income of $46,748 a year, nearly $11,000 below the national figure of $57,617 and the seventh lowest median income nationwide. New Mexico also has the third highest poverty among all states at 19.8%.

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44. Oklahoma
> Adults drinking excessively: 13.9%
> Alcohol-related driving deaths: 29.9% (19th lowest)
> Adults in fair or poor health: 20.9% (6th highest)
> Drunkest metro area: Lawton, OK

Nearly 14% of adults in Oklahoma drink excessively — below the national average of 18.0%. Over time, binge or heavy drinking can lead to many health problems. However, excessive drinking is only one of many factors that can contribute to poor health. Adults in Oklahoma are much more likely to be physically inactive and smoke than the typical American. Partially as a result, despite a lower binge and heavy drinking rate, about 1 in 4 adults in the state are in fair or poor health, the sixth highest share of any state.

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43. North Carolina
> Adults drinking excessively: 14.9%
> Alcohol-related driving deaths: 32.3% (24th highest)
> Adults in fair or poor health: 18.5% (12th highest)
> Drunkest metro area: Jacksonville, NC

Nationwide, 18.0% of adults drink excessively. In North Carolina, that share is much lower at 14.9%. Drinking too much alcohol on a regular basis can lead to many health complications — both short and long term — ranging from alcohol poisoning to certain cancers. Despite the lower percentage of adults drinking to excess, 18.5% of adults in North Carolina report being in poor or fair health, the 12th highest share of any state and well above the national average of 15.0%. One possible explanation for poorer health outcomes in North Carolina may be above average physical inactivity and obesity rates at 24.0% and 29.7%, respectively. Nationwide, 22.0% of adults get no exercise beyond getting up and going to work and 28.0% of adults are obese.

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42. Arkansas
> Adults drinking excessively: 15.3%
> Alcohol-related driving deaths: 28.4% (13th lowest)
> Adults in fair or poor health: 22.7% (2nd highest)
> Drunkest metro area: Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AR-MO

Some 15.3% of adults in Arkansas drink to excess, which is below the national average of 18.0%. States where binge drinking and drinking heavily are less common tend to have poorer health outcomes, despite the many negative health problems associated with excessive alcohol consumption. Drinking alcohol is an expensive unhealthy habit and tends to be less common in states with lower incomes — which often report worse health outcomes than wealthier states.

Arkansas is no different. The state’s median annual household income of $44,334 is well below the national figure of $57,617. Some 22.7% of adults in the state report being in fair or poor health, the second largest share among all states.

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41. Idaho
> Adults drinking excessively: 15.4%
> Alcohol-related driving deaths: 32.4% (23rd highest)
> Adults in fair or poor health: 14.1% (14th lowest)
> Drunkest metro area: Coeur d’Alene, ID

Only 15.4% of adults in Idaho drink excessively, a smaller share than the 18.0% of adults nationwide. Excessive drinking is never healthy and Idaho’s low excessive drinking rate partially explains some positive health outcomes. A key measure of health is the premature death rate, and Idaho’s is below average. For every 100,000 state residents, 310 die before the age of 75. Nationwide, there are 333 deaths before age 75 for every 100,000 people.

According to the CDC, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to risky sexual behavior — and Idaho’s low excessive drinking rate may partially explain a low incidence of sexually transmitted diseases. There are 337 diagnosis of chlamydia per 100,000 state residents annually, one the lowest such rates among states and well below the U.S. rate of 456 per 100,000.