Binge Drinking Ballooning Nationwide

June 3, 2015
Meghan Ross, Associate Editor

Americans are increasingly engaging in heavy drinking and binge drinking.

Americans are increasingly engaging in heavy drinking and binge drinking.

A recent study published in The American Journal of Public Health examined county data from 2002 through 2012 to learn more about Americans’ drinking habits.

The results showed a broad range in alcohol consumption. County data demonstrated drinking prevalence ranged between 11% and 78.7%. Heavy drinking prevalence ranged from 2.4% to 22.4%, and binge drinking ranged from 5.9% to 36%.

Men were more likely to binge drink and drink heavily compared with women. However, women’s rates for binge drinking jumped 17.5% between 2005 and 2012, while men’s rates increased by only 4.9%.

“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,” said Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation Director Christopher Murray, MD, DPhil, in a press release.

The researchers found heavy drinking and binge drinking increased in most counties between 2005 and 2012, but the growth varied across the United States.

There was also great variation within state lines. For example, Texas has counties with the lowest percentage of heavy drinkers and the greatest percentage of binge drinkers.

In 2012, Esmeralda County, Nevada, had the largest percentage of heavy drinkers at 22.4%, followed by Sioux County and Rolette County, North Dakota, at 21.4% and 19.6%, respectively.

At 2.4%, Hancock County, Tennessee, had the lowest percentage of heavy drinkers in 2012. Madison County, Idaho, and Collingsworth County, Texas, followed close behind with low percentages of heavy drinkers.

Nationally, heavy drinking saw a slow rise from 2005 to 2012, with a spike in 2011.

Meanwhile, Menominee County, Wisconsin, had the largest percentage of binge drinkers in 2012, at 36%, followed by Loving County, Texas, at 35.5%. In addition to being one of the counties with the lowest number of heavy drinkers, Madison County, Idaho, had the lowest percentage of binge drinkers, at 5.9%. Utah County, Utah, followed as a county with a low percentage of binge drinkers, at 6.5%.