Map: These counties are home to the most excessive drinkers, study finds
(NEXSTAR) — You may have an idea of how much alcohol your community drinks. There may even be a certain sense of pride regarding how much or how little that is. But recently released data helps illustrate which areas in the U.S. are prone to excessive drinking and those that aren’t.
Earlier this year, the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute released its 2023 County Health Rankings and Roadmaps report, which is meant to raise awareness about factors that can impact health outcomes and disparities nationwide.
Researchers use numerous data points to determine the length and quality of life on a state-by-state basis. Among those factors is alcohol use, including reported excessive drinking.
To determine the rates of excessive drinking per state, researchers used self-reported data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance system. For the 2023 report, the University of Wisconsin used data from 2020 — the first year of the COVID pandemic.
Excessive drinking encompasses both binge drinking (four or more drinks on one occasion for women, five or more for men) and heavy drinking (eight or more drinks a week for women, fifteen or more for men).
Based on the CDC’s data, the University of Wisconsin found its own state, Wisconsin, is home to the most excessive drinkers. Overall, 26% of adults in the state — which sports an MLB team named in honor of its beer brewing industry — self-reported excessive drinking.
The five states with the most excessive drinkers were primarily in the north-central U.S. After Wisconsin, the four states with the highest rates were Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, and North Dakota. In total, 19 states had excessive drinking rates equal to or greater than 20%.
As the map below shows, in every state, at least 10% of participating adults reported excessive drinking. Utah had the lowest rate at 12% — less than half the rate of Wisconsin. States along the East Coast had among the lowest rates as well, while those on the opposite side of the country were slightly larger.
Unsurprisingly, when reviewing county-level data, researchers found nine of the 10 with the highest rate of adults reportedly drinking excessively were in Wisconsin. Topping out the list was Columbia County, which is located just north of Madison, at 29%. Ozaukee County, north of Milwaukee, also reported 29%. Tying for third was Montana’s Sheridan County at 28%, the same rate reported by 18 other Wisconsin counties.
No Wisconsin county reported a rate below 25%.
As expected, Utah has the county with the lowest level of excessive drinkers: Utah County at 8%. Two more, Cache and Sanpete, tied for the second-lowest rank at 10%. Rounding out the bottom of the list were two Alabama counties, Greene and Perry, and five Mississippi counties: Holmes, Humphreys, Leflore, Quitman, and Tunica.
The interactive map below shows the rates reported per county.
The University of Wisconsin also reviewed the number of alcohol-impaired driving deaths per state and county.
Though it has a relatively low rate of adults drinking excessively (18%), California had the highest number of alcohol-impaired driving deaths at 5,185 between 2016 and 2020, according to data collected from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System. The District of Columbia reported 43 while Vermont reported 109.
It was Montana, where nearly one in four adults reportedly drink excessively, that had the highest rate of driving deaths involving alcohol at 46%. North Dakota was close behind at 41%, though both states reported less than 500 alcohol-impaired driving deaths: 443 and 221, respectively.
Three states — Kansas, Mississippi, and Indiana — reported the lowest percentages of driving deaths with alcohol involvement. According to the County Health Rankings, alcohol was involved in 19% of driving deaths in these states.
“When consumed in excess, alcohol is harmful to the health and well-being of those that drink as well as their families, friends, and communities,” researchers noted.
A study recently published in the Journal of American Medicine found more Americans are dying from alcohol-related deaths, especially women. Between 2018 and 2020, researchers say CDC shows mortality rates among men increased by 12.5%, Nexstar’s WPIX reports. Among women, that rate was almost 15%.