Though alcohol is enjoyed responsibly by millions of Americans every day, it is also misused by many — and overconsumption can have serious consequences. Excessive drinking is the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States.
Excessive drinking can lead to a variety of health problems and significantly shorten a person’s life. The habit claimed over 140,000 lives each year between 2015 and 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is more than 380 deaths a day. And those who die as the result of excessive drinking die 26 years prematurely, on average. (These are the 50 U.S. counties where people have the shortest life expectancy.)
To identify the states with the highest excessive drinking rates, 24/7 Tempo reviewed the percentage of adults 18 and older who report binge or heavy drinking within a 30-day period across the country. Data came from the 2022 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute joint program.
Excessive drinking includes both binge and heavy drinking. Heavy drinking is defined as consuming at least 15 drinks a week or averaging two or more drinks a day for men, according to the CDC. For women, it’s eight drinks or more per week or more than one drink on average a day. Binge drinking is defined as a pattern of alcohol consumption that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration level to 0.08% or higher — estimated to take about five or more drinks within two hours for men and four or more drinks for women.
Excessive alcohol consumption rates appear associated with some economic factors. Alcohol can be expensive, and people’s ability to drink to excess can be limited by their income. States with higher excessive drinking rates tend to have higher incomes, and vice-versa.
Fatal car accidents that involve alcohol appear to be more common in the states with higher excessive drinking rates. Nationwide, 26.6% of all driving deaths involve alcohol. In the 20 states with the highest excessive drinking rates, the share is higher than the national rate.
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