Which State Ranked Worst For Excessive Drinking?

By Paul Fuhr 12/21/18

 “America’s Health Rankings” report cited this state for its abnormally high percentage of adults who consume alcohol at a rate higher than the national average. 

woman drinking in state ranked highest for excessive drinking

A new report released by the United Health Foundation, a non-profit group dedicated to improving American health care, claims that Wisconsin is the worst state in the US when it comes to excessive drinking.

In the foundation’s 29th annual “America’s Health Rankings” report, the Badger State was cited for its abnormally high percentage of adults who consume alcohol at a rate much higher than the national average. Factoring in community, environment, health outcomes and public policy (among other concerns), the report concluded that nearly a quarter of all adults in Wisconsin (24.2%) drank alcohol to excess. 

The Foundation defines “excessive drinking” by using two separate categories: “binge drinking” and “chronic drinking.”

Binge drinkers include women who consumed four or more drinks on one occasion within the past 30 days (five drinks for men), while chronic drinkers are women who consumed eight or more alcoholic drinks per week (15 drinks for men). 

By contrast, the best-ranked state was Utah, as only 12.2% of its adults reported excess drinking there. The study also found that men, young adults and adults in higher-income homes are far more likely to drink to excess than women, older adults or adults in comparatively lower socioeconomic brackets. 

On the same day the report was released, Wisconsin’s Department of Transportation announced an anti-drunk driving campaign. Geared toward holiday drinkers, the state’s “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign involves over 100 law enforcement agencies across the state, which are all grouped into 25 separate task forces. 

Overall, Wisconsin boasts roughly 3,800 law enforcement officers across those task forces—all of whom are trained with Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE), a program developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to train police officers how to “observe, identify, and articulate the signs of impairment related to drugs, alcohol or a combination of both, in order to reduce the number of impaired drivers and impaired driving related traffic collisions.” 

In terms of where Wisconsin falls in relation to the country’s overall health, it ranks 23rd out of the 50 states. (Last year, it ranked 21st.) The United Health Foundation also noticed a 16% increase in mortality and chronic disease in the state, including obesity. Premature death increased by 6% in Wisconsin, too.

According to Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR), only $52 is spent per person on public health funding as opposed to states like Alaska, which spends $281 per person.

“These rankings are indeed a wake-up call for all the people that are involved in such activities, and the state on the whole as well, and certain measures must be taken to address such situations which may not seem to have severe effects directly, but sure can be a cause for concern as they may affect many things indirectly, before it is too late for the same,” writer Jessica Pittard observed

The Foundation’s annual report listed Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana as the country’s most unhealthy states, while Hawaii, Massachusetts and Connecticut sat at the top as the healthiest.

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Paul Fuhr lives in Columbus, Ohio with his family and two cats, Vesper and Dr. No. He's written for AfterParty MagazineThe Literary Review and The Live Oak Review, among others. He's also the host of "Drop the Needle," a podcast about music and addiction recovery. More at paulfuhr.com. You can also find Paul on Linkedin and Twitter.