How bad a problem is excessive drinking in America? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 16% of adults engage in binge drinking. Another 7% report heavy drinking.
Drinking levels vary considerably by state. The states with the most severe excessive drinking problems are the Upper Midwest and Plains states. They include Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Iowa. The drunkest county in America is Outagamie County, Wisconsin.
The health effects of excessive drinking are profound. Among the short-term effects are car accidents. Among the longer-term problems are high blood pressure, cancer, and memory problems. Each year, alcohol abuse is directly linked to diseases and accidents that kill an estimated 95,000 Americans. Excessive drinking also costs the economy hundreds of billions of dollars annually, mostly in lost productivity. (These are America’s drunkest states.)
To identify the 50 drunkest U.S. counties, 24/7 Tempo reviewed excessive drinking rates data from County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a joint program between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. In each of the 50 counties, more than one in four adults drink excessively, while nationwide, fewer than one in five do.
The counties we examined were ranked on their excessive drinking rate — the share of adults who either binge drink or drink heavily. CHR defines binge drinking as consuming more than four drinks in a single occasion for women and more than five drinks for men, while heavy drinking is defined as consuming more than one drink a day on average for women and more than two drinks a day for men.
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.
While the drunkest county in America is Outagamie County, Wisconsin, the least drunk county in America is Utah County, Utah.
Here are the details for Outagamie County:
Adults binge or heavy drinking: 31.0%
Driving deaths involving alcohol: 32.0% (tied for 993rd highest of 3,081 counties)
Median household income: $65,572 (436th highest)
Adults reporting poor or fair health: 13.7% (259th lowest)