Last week, Canadian health officials revised government recommendations for alcohol consumption from two drinks per day to two drinks per week, and strongly suggested that citizens cut out alcohol altogether.
While that may seem excessive, a growing body of evidence suggests that any alcohol consumption, however moderate, can have negative health consequences. Even low levels of drinking increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and certain types of cancer – and as alcohol consumption rises, so do the health risks.
According to a recent study, excessive drinking results in about 140,000 deaths each year in the United States. Most of these deaths are caused by chronic health conditions, such as liver disease, but also include acute causes, such as roadway accidents and alcohol poisoning. (Read about 25 famous people who drank themselves to death.)
Understanding that there is no such thing as risk-free drinking, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – while not going so far as its Canadian counterpart – defines moderate drinking as 2 drinks or less per day for men, and no more than one drink per day for women. Still, despite the well-publicized health risks, more than two-thirds of adult drinkers regularly exceed those levels.
In some parts of the country, excessive drinking is far more common than in others. Using data from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 24/7 Tempo reviewed per capita alcohol consumption in each of the 50 states. States are ranked by the gallons of alcohol consumed per resident 14 and older in 2020.
As part of a program to improve public health in the United States, the Department of Health and Human Services set a goal to reduce alcohol consumption from 2.3 gallons in 2017 to 2.1 gallons in 2020. According to the latest data, only seven states fall below that national benchmark.
Across the 50 states, alcohol consumption ranged from about 1.4 gallons in 2020, to over 4.8 gallons. The states with the highest per capita alcohol consumption span the country, from the Northeast to the West, while the states with the lowest consumption rates are concentrated in the South.
Not surprisingly, adults in states with the highest per capita alcohol consumption are more likely to engage in excessive drinking – meaning four more drinks in a single occasion or more than one drink per day for women, or five or more drinks in a single occasion or more than two drinks per day for men. Similarly, in states with higher per capita alcohol consumption, a larger share of fatal car crashes involve alcohol impaired drivers. (Here’s a look at when you’re most likely to die in a drunk driving accident in every state.)
To compile a list of the states with the highest alcohol consumption from all beverages per capita, 24/7 Tempo reviewed a report by the data site Statista, which analyzed data published in April 2022 from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Data is for 2020 and is for people 14 years and older. Population data came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2021 American Community Survey. Data on excessive drinking among adults and alcohol-impaired driving fatalities came from the 2022 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute joint program and is for 2019.
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