Special Report

The Drunkest Place in Every State

It’s easy to see why humans like to drink. Sipping wine, beer, or a mixed drink occasionally releases endorphins, natural opiates that calm us and uplift our mood. After a stressful day at work, a glass of wine is a relaxing way to wind down.

But like eating too much ice cream, excessive alcohol consumption can be harmful to our bodies and emotional well-being.

And we, Americans, do like to drink. According to a 2019 survey sponsored by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 85.6% of adults 18 and older said they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime. Nearly 70% reported having a drink in the past year, and 55% in the past month.

Unfortunately, the residents in the counties in each state listed here took their imbedding to an extreme. Perhaps it was the stress of the pandemic. A scientific study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health surveyed 832 adults over age 21 in May 2020 on their drinking habits.

Sixty percent reported increasing drinking compared to pre-COVID times. (On the other hand, 13% reported downing fewer libations.) Top reasons for reaching for the bottle included stress (45.7%); availability of alcohol (34.4%); and boredom (30.1%). A third reported binge drinking and 7% reported extreme binge drinking.

Does drinking have a negative effect on the overall health of the residents in these counties? Not necessarily. Despite having some heavy drinkers in their midst, the people in many of these counties aren’t terribly unhealthy compared to the rest of the state. In Alaska’s Skagway Municipality, for example, 22.2% of the residents drink excessively, compared to 17.6% statewide. Yet 12.2% of its citizens are in fair to poor health, compared to the state percentage of 15.6%. So the message is: An occasional drink is okay, just don’t make it a habit. To find the heaviest drinking metros, see the 50 drunkest cities in America.

Click here for the drunkest county in every state
Click here to see our detailed methodology