SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4) – Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that Utah has the lowest rate of binge drinking in the United States, with alcohol consumption clocking in at 1.35 gallons per capita.
The figure pales in comparison to the state with the most binge drinking, New Hampshire, where folks are consuming alcohol at a rate of 4.67 gallons per capita.
Though New Hampshire is considered number one in terms of gallons consumed, Alaska exhibits the “highest total cost of excessive drinking” at $872.2 million (a rate of $1,165 per person), while New Mexico has the highest number of alcohol-related deaths in the U.S., with an average of 34.3 deaths per 100,000 people.
The cost of excessive drinking refers to expenses such as loss of workplace productivity, health care expenses, property damage, motor vehicle crash costs and criminal justice expenses.
It’s no secret that drinking alcohol is a part of the fabric of American culture, and as the CDC points out, despite the fact that the legal drinking age in the U.S. is 21, many people aged 18 and over either regularly drink or have done so at some point during their life.
The question is — at what point does it become binge drinking, or at what point do people become dependent versus having a casual drink on a weekend with a friend?
In the United States, one drink has 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol in it. Therefore, one drink in the U.S. is measured as 12 ounces of beer, 8 ounces of malt liquor, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor (40% alcohol proof).
Excessive alcohol consumption includes “heavy drinking” and “binge drinking.”
Heavy drinking is considered eight or more drinks per week for women and 15 or more drinks per week for men, while binge drinking is considered four or more drinks during a single occasion for women and five or more for men.
In 2019, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reported that 25.8% of Americans aged 18 and up had engaged in binge drinking within the previous month.
The organization states that around 95,000 people die from alcohol-related causes every year, making it the third-highest cause of preventable death in the U.S.
In Utah, research shows there were 9.8 alcohol-related deaths per 100,000 people in 2019. Additionally, the total cost of excessive alcohol consumption across the state was reportedly $1.63 billion, which is equivalent to $592 per capita (a little more than half of Alaska’s per-capita costs).
Long-term alcohol abuse can lead to several health complications, according to the World Population Review. Among these are heart problems (such as stroke, high blood pressure, heart arrhythmias, and cardiomyopathy), as well as fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis in the liver. Additionally, the organization reports that alcohol is linked to several cancers, including head and neck cancer, liver cancer, colorectal cancer, esophageal cancer, and breast cancer.
Not to mention — alcohol is responsible for causing drunk driving crashes that claim more than 10,000 lives per year.
The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics shows that in 2019, there were 61 fatalities due to drunk driving in Utah, seven of which were under the age of 21.
The World Population Review asserts that the reason Utah has the lowest consumption rates of alcohol is strict alcohol regulations in the state, and that because of alcohol’s many health complications, it is a significant factor in determining which states are the healthiest.
Internationally, the NIAAA states the U.S. ranks 25th for alcohol consumption, with approximately 8.7 liters of pure alcohol consumed per person every year, beating out the global average of 8.3 liters.
They found that in 2016, most states in the U.S. exceeded their per capita alcohol consumption goal of 2.1 gallons or less per year, with an average of 2.35 gallons.
But not all hope is lost, the NIAAA states that there has been a decline in underage drinking.
From 2002 to 2019, the reported prevalence of past-30-day alcohol use decreased 41.1 percent for 16 to 17-year-olds, 54.7 percent for 14 to 15-year-olds, and 61.9 percent for 12 to 13-year-olds.
The statistics bode well for the new generation, being that since 2006, the reported death rate for all ages due to alcohol has increased — except in young adults aged 18 to 24.
Utah is leading the way for the rest of the country, it seems, though laws are changing.