America’s heaviest drinking counties mapped

More US adults than ever are considered heavy or binge drinkers with women driving a rise in consumption, a county-level study on alcohol habits in the US has revealed.


Levels of drinking by county from low (blue) to high (red)

According to research by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, rising rates of drinking among US women have pushed up levels of heavy and binge drinking in the US. By contrast, the percentage of people who drink any alcohol has remained relatively unchanged over time.

Published in the American Journal of Public Health,  “Drinking patterns in US counties from 2002 to 2012 is the first study to track trends in alcohol use at the county level.Heavy drinking, defined as an average of one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men over the past month, has risen sharply among Americans, up 17.2% since 2005.

In 2012, 8.2% of all Americans were considered heavy drinkers and 18.3% were binge drinkers, which is defined as consuming four drinks or more for women and five drinks or more for men on a single occasion at least once during the past month.

Nationwide, women showed a much faster escalation in binge drinking than men, with rates rising 17.5% between 2005 and 2012, while bing drinking rates among men increased by 4.9%.

“We are seeing some very alarming trends in alcohol overconsumption, especially among women,” said Dr. Ali Mokdad, a lead author of the study and professor at IHME. “We also can’t ignore the fact that in many US counties a quarter of the people, or more, are binge drinkers.”

The study also revealed “striking disparities” in alcohol consumption patterns from county to county, within one state.

In Texas, for example, rates of overall binge drinking ranged from 10.8% in Collingsworth County, well below the national average of 18.3%, to 35.5% in Loving County, nearly twice the national average in 2012.

Researcher said these county-level findings, which can be explored with IHME’s US Health Map data visualization tool, highlight the “need for more locally focused alcohol policies and programs”.

“In the US, state-level results often mask the full range of what people are experiencing health-wise,” said IHME’s Director Dr. Christopher Murray. “When you can map out what’s happening county by county, over time, and for men and women separately, that’s also when you can really pinpoint specific health needs and challenges – and then tailor health policies and programs accordingly.”

Click through to see which US counties are home to the heaviest, and lowest drinking residents…

3 Responses to “America’s heaviest drinking counties mapped”

  1. Thomas Kruse says:

    I think it would be interesting to overlay or compare a similarly colored map with people’s political leanings. We have heard of red and blue states in politics. Compare them to the map of drinking.

  2. Deltahater says:

    What a ridiculously insane study. This is a prime example of how researchers (and I use that term loosely) and reality are miles and miles away.
    Are you really trying to tell me that people in Ft. Myers (where they are generally older) drink more than the young kids in Miami Beach?
    People along the Texas/Mexico border drink excessive amounts, but according to this they drink less than the tree-huggers in VT.
    People in Denver drink more than on Indian reservations with a known drinking problem?

    I wish a professor had done a reality check. This is just shoddy research.

    • Justin says:

      Where are you getting your data from? Without knowing the full methods we cannot determine how bad it good this study is but we can’t argue based purely on experience, anecdotal evidence, and assumptions

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