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Maps: These states, counties are home to the most excessive drinkers, study finds

(NEXSTAR) — According to a recent report, nearly one in six U.S. adults are considered binge drinkers. Newly released data shows some states (and counties within those states) may be more prone to excessive drinking than others. 

The University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute has published its annual County Health Rankings and Roadmaps report, which is intended to highlight the factors that can impact our health outcomes and disparities nationwide. The report considers numerous data points, including the excessive consumption of alcohol. 

To calculate each region’s drinking rate, researchers used self-reported data from the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance system. For the latest report, data from 2021 was used.

The CDC considers both binge drinking and heavy drinking as “excessive.” Binge drinking is defined as four or more drinks in one sitting among women, and five or more among men. For women, having eight or more alcoholic drinks in one week is labeled as heavy drinking, while for men, that benchmark is 15 or more drinks. 

After reviewing the available data, the University of Wisconsin found its own state, Wisconsin, had the highest rate, 25%, of self-reported excessive drinkers. While high, that’s down from 26% from the previous year’s report, which used data from 2020. 

Rounding out the top five were the District of Columbia, Montana, North Dakota, and Iowa. 

Overall, 19 states saw their excessive drinking rates drop between 2020 and 2021. Nevada saw the largest decrease, going from 20% to 15% in 2021.

Not every state saw a year-to-year improvement though. Neighboring Illinois saw self-reported rates of excessive drinking increase by 3% from 2020 to 2021, up to 18%. Rhode Island also saw a 3% increase, from 18% to 21% over the same time. 

Within every state, at least 10% of adults self-reported excessive drinking, researchers found. Utah had the lowest overall rate at 12%, the same level reported during the prior year. Ranking behind Utah were Alabama, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Nevada. 

The interactive map below shows the percentage of adults who self-reported binge or heavy drinking in 2021, according to the available data. By tapping or hovering over a state, you’ll see the most recent excessive drinking rate, as well as the percentage listed in last year’s report. 

When researchers reviewed county-specific data, they found that it wasn’t a Wisconsin county that had the highest rate of excessive drinkers. Instead, it was Gallatin County in Montana that topped out the list — 27% of adults in the southern county self-reported binge or heavy drinking in 2021. However, all 72 of Wisconsin’s counties had an excessive drinking rate at or above 20%. 

Utah’s Utah County and Alabama’s Greene County tied for the lowest rate at 9%. Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, and New Mexico also had counties toward the bottom of the list.

The interactive map below shows the percentage of self-reported excessive drinkers based on the available data from the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. 

Overall, the average rate of excessive drinking by county was nearly 17%, while the state average was more than 18%.

Earlier this month, the CDC released a study showing deaths linked to excessive drinking surged during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020-2021, the average annual number of deaths from “excessive alcohol use” was up by about 30% compared to 2016-2017, The Hill reports

The authors of the study noted that during the peak of the pandemic, many states began offering expanded alcohol carryout and home delivery; and businesses serving and selling alcohol were allowed to remain open. 

The authors also noted that “general delays in seeking medical attention, including avoidance of emergency departments for alcohol-related conditions; stress, loneliness, and social isolation; and mental health conditions might also have contributed to the increase in deaths from excessive alcohol use during the COVID-19 pandemic.”Last summer, the director of the National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism warned that the U.S. could tighten its alcohol consumption parameters when they are reviewed for the 2025 national guidelines.

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