Well-Being Longevity

These states have the highest rates of binge drinking

Wisconsin, Iowa and North Dakota have the highest rates of binge drinking in the country, while Utah, Oklahoma and Alabama had some of the lowest rates.
Man looks at alcohol in store
The Associated Press/ Martin Meissner

Story at a glance

  • Rates of alcohol consumption have historically been higher in the Midwest region of the United States.

  • Data from NiceRx details which states have the highest and lowest rates of excessive alcohol intake.

  • Binge drinking is a leading cause of preventable death in the country and costs the nation billions of dollars each year. 

Excessive alcohol use takes the lives of about 380 Americans each day, and some in the Midwest are particularly vulnerable, according to new research. 

Wisconsin, Iowa and North Dakota have the highest binge drinking rates in the country according to data from medication access company NiceRx, at 25.8 percent, 24.5 percent and 22.7 percent, respectively. 

These top three are followed by Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Illinois and Colorado. 

In 2010, the most recent year for which data are available, excessive drinking cost the country $249 billion, due in part to treatment costs for cancer, liver disease and heart disease. 

Furthermore, excessive drinking shortens average life expectancy by 26 years, accounting for nearly 3.6 million years of potential life lost annually. 

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Although those aged 35 and older and males are more likely to engage in binge drinking, recent figures show around 1 in 3 young people report doing so recently. 

NiceRx data were collected from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), while the state of New Jersey was not included in the final analysis. 

In the study, binge drinking was defined as consuming five or more drinks on one occasion for males, and four or more drinks for females. 

One study conducted in 2016 suggested a root cause for the high rates of alcohol consumption seen in the Midwest could be the number of colleges and universities in the region. Cold weather could also contribute to high rates of alcohol consumption, along with regional social norms.

On the flipside, researchers found Utah, Oklahoma, Alabama, Mississippi and West Virginia had the lowest rates of binge drinking recorded. 

Utah also had the lowest number of cigarette smokers. More than 60 percent of the state’s population is Mormon, a religion that prohibits consumption of both alcohol and tobacco and likely accounts for the low rates reported. 

Both Oklahoma and Alabama had the same low proportion of binge drinkers at 13.6 percent. Researchers hypothesize this could be due to the states’ situation in the deeply religious Bible Belt and prevalence of conservative social values. Four of the top five states with the lowest binge-drinking rates are part of the Bible Belt.

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