U.S. map showing state by state binge drinking rates

Wisconsin Ranks No. 1 in Binge Drinking

U.S. map showing state by state binge drinking rates
Binge Drinking by State - Source: The Daily

Wisconsin takes first place in the nation for binge drinking according to a study reported in January, 2012 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Nationwide, one in six American adults (according to the CDC) is a binge drinker. In Wisconsin, however, the statistic is one in four adults. Binge drinking in the study is defined as five or more drinks in a short period for men, and four or more drinks for women. The frequency threshold used to define a binge drinker was four episodes a month. According to the CDC, 50% of all alcohol sales in the United States involve binge drinking. For college students, that number is 90%. See the CDC Web site for more information.

Does binge drinking make a difference in auto fatalities? It is hard to imagine that it does not. Out of curiosity I took a look at the national statistics for alcohol related traffic deaths in comparison to those of Wisconsin. In 2009 the national average of “alcohol related” traffic deaths was 38%. For Wisconsin during the same year, the number was 45%. In 2009 the national average of “alcohol impaired” traffic deaths was 32%. In Wisconsin that number was 38%. If there is any good news to report, it is that in 1982 the Wisconsin percentages for “alcohol related” and “alcohol impaired” fatalities were 62% and 57% respectively.
(Source: http://www.alcoholalert.com/drunk-driving-statistics.html)

In truth, with the limited amount of data presented here, we cannot conclude that higher rates of alcohol related traffic fatalities in Wisconsin are due to higher rates of binge drinking. Nonetheless, I’m willing to wager that the association is real.

The statistics on drunk driving are frightening. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the CDC both publish lots of information that might make a sober person reluctant to ever drive again. Alcohol abuse, in addition to its safety related concerns, leads to all sorts of health problems. In case anyone has forgotten what some of them are, the table below spells it out.

Consequences of Alcohol Abuse or Dependence

System/category Early consequences Late consequences

Liver disease

Elevated liver enzyme levels

Fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, cirrhosis

Pancreatic disease

Acute pancreatitis, chronic pancreatitis

Cardiovascular disease


Cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, stroke

Gastrointestinal problems

Gastritis, gastroesophageal reflux disease, diarrhea, peptic ulcer disease

Esophageal varices, Mallory-Weiss tears

Neurologic disorders

Headaches, blackouts, peripheral neuropathy

Alcohol withdrawal syndrome, seizures, Wernicke’s encephalopathy, dementia, cerebral atrophy, peripheral neuropathy, cognitive deficits, impaired motor functioning

Reproductive system disorders

Fetal alcohol effects, fetal alcohol syndrome

Sexual dysfunction, amenorrhea, anovulation, early menopause, spontaneous abortion


Neoplasm of the liver, neoplasm of the head and neck, neoplasm of the pancreas, neoplasm of the esophagus

Psychiatric comorbidities

Depression, anxiety

Affective disorders, anxiety disorders, antisocial personality

Legal problems

Traffic violations, driving while intoxicated, public intoxication

Motor vehicle accidents, violent offenses, fires

Employment problems

Tardiness, sick days, inability to concentrate, decreased competence

Accidents, injury, job loss, chronic unemployment

Family problems

Family conflict, erratic child discipline, neglect of responsibilities, social isolation

Divorce, spouse abuse, child abuse or neglect, loss of child custody

Effects on children

Overresponsibility, acting out, withdrawal, inability to concentrate, school problems, social isolation

Learning disorders, behavior problems, emotional disturbance

SANDRA K. BURGE, PH.D., and F. DAVID SCHNEIDER, M.D., M.S.P.H., University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, Texas. “Alcohol-Related Problems: Recognition and Intervention.” Am Fam Physician. 1999 Jan 15;59(2):361-370. (Internet, http://www.aafp.org/afp/1999/0115/p361.html)

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