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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.

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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…

Counties with highest rates of binge drinking

1. Wisconsin, Menominee County – 36.0%

2. Texas, Loving County – 35.5%

3. Nebraska, Nance County – 35.2%

4. North Dakota, Renville County – 34.2%

5. Nevada, Esmeralda County – 33.8%

6. North Dakota, Steele County – 33.6%

7. North Dakota, Nelson County – 33.5%

8. Michigan, Ontonagon County – 33.3%

9. Montana, Toole County – 33.2%

10. North Dakota, Burke County – 33.0%

Counties with highest rates of heavy drinking

1. Nevada, Esmeralda County – 22.4%

2. North Dakota, Sioux County – 21.4%

3. North Dakota, Rolette County – 19.6%

4. Michigan, Ontonagon County – 19.3%

5. Montana, Petroleum County – 19.0%

6. Colorado, San Miguel County – 18.9%

7. Nevada, Storey County – 18.6%

8. Colorado, Summit County – 18.6%

9. South Dakota, Buffalo County – 18.3%

10. Colorado, Hinsdale County – 18.2%

Counties with highest rates of any drinking

1. Virginia, Falls Church City – 78.7%

2. Colorado, Summit County – 78.6%

3. Colorado, Pitkin County – 78.0%

4. Colorado, Routt County – 76.7%

5. Colorado, San Miguel County – 76.4%

6. Colorado, Ouray County – 74.9%

7. Wyoming, Teton County – 74.9%

8. Colorado, Hinsdale County – 74.3%

9. Wisconsin, Ozaukee County – 73.3%

10. Wisconsin, Portage County – 73.3%

Counties with lowest rates of binge drinking

1. Idaho, Madison County – 5.9%

2. Utah, Utah County – 6.5%

3. Tennessee, Hancock County – 7.1%

4. Utah, Cache County – 7.6%

5. Tennessee, Johnson County – 7.8%

6. Utah, Rich County – 8.0%

7. Idaho, Franklin County – 8.0%

8. Idaho, Bear Lake County – 8.1%

9. Tennessee, Grainger County – 8.2%

10. Utah, Sevier County – 8.4%

Counties with lowest rates of heavy drinking

1. Tennessee, Hancock County – 2.4%

2. Idaho, Madison County – 2.7%

3. Texas, Collingsworth County – 2.8%

4. Colorado, Kiowa County – 3.1%

5. Utah, Utah County – 3.1%

6. Tennessee, Grainger County – 3.2%

7. Oklahoma, Grant County – 3.2%

8. Kentucky, Bell County – 3.3%

9. Oklahoma, Dewey County – 3.4%

10. Tennessee, Johnson County – 3.4%

Counties with lowest rates of any drinking

1. Idaho, Madison County – 11.0%

2. Utah, Utah County – 14.3%

3. Idaho, Franklin County – 16.6%

4. Utah, Rich County – 17.9%

5. Idaho, Bear Lake County – 17.9%

6. West Virginia, McDowell County – 18.6%

7. Utah, Cache County – 18.6%

8. Tennessee, Hancock County – 18.7%

9. Idaho, Oneida County – 19.3%

10. Utah, Juab County – 19.4%

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