Driven to drink apparently isn't just a euphemism anymore. Americans are drinking more than in past years, and they are drinking more than is considered healthy. According to a study done by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), our collective drinking went up by almost a percent from 2.33 gallons in 2015 to 2.35 gallons in 2016.
You might expect to find certain states rising to the top of the booze list based on a growing wine, beer, or liquor industry, but the top 10 states that drink the most alcohol don't necessarily match up with the states that produce the most adult beverages. The study noted that: "Between 2015 and 2016, changes in overall per capita consumption of ethanol included increases in 33 States, decreases in 12 States, and no changes in 5 States and the District of Columbia."
States like California and Virginia with strong wine and beer industries, Colorado with its breweries and craft distilleries, or Kentucky as the home and main producer of bourbon, seem like they would be at least in the top five. However, none of those states even cracked the top 10 list for drunkest states.
The NIAAA used data from alcoholic beverage sales instead of production and shipment information from producers since sales data is a better indicator of actual alcohol consumption. That fact may explain why some states with major production facilities or a large number of brewers, distillers, and vineyards aren't as high on the list of consumers.
Excessive drinking of alcoholic beverages is a concern for many. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracks statistics including binge drinking and the number of people who die in alcohol-related driving incidents. NIAAA's goal is to reduce the national per capita annual alcohol consumption level by 10 percent by 2020, which would likely increase overall American health, as well as decrease problems like drunk driving.
The states with the least alcohol consumption are Utah, West Virginia, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Georgia, and Kentucky. However, this study tracks sales as a measure of consumption and some of these states still have laws that restrict sales, so the actual consumption by residents may be a bit higher, with the sales reflected in another state's data.
Here are the top 10 states that consume the most alcohol based on beverage sales and population.
Idaho drinking rates have ticked up noticeably from 2010-2016 and most of that increase has come from growth in wine and spirits, while fewer people in Idaho are drinking beer. In 2016, Idaho residents drank 27,593 gallons of beer, 12,360 gallons of wine, and 2,647 gallons of spirits for a total of 2.92 gallons per capita.beer
You might expect heavy drinking in a state with long stretches of wilderness and winter. In 2016, Alaska residents drank 15,146 gallons of beer, 2,586 gallons of wine, and 1,783 gallons of spirits for a total of 2.94 gallons per capita.
We told you about a 24/7 Wall St report that detailed the drunkest cities in America. 12 of the top 20 on that list were in Wisconsin, so it's no surprise that the Badger State takes the number eight spot here. In 2016, Wisconsin residents drank 144,959 gallons of beer, 14,981 gallons of wine, and 14,191 gallons of spirits for a total of 2.98 gallons per capita.
Vermont has some excellent craft breweries and Vermonters definitely seem to prefer beer to spirits, but it's a little surprising to see the small state make the top 10 in the list of states that drink the most alcohol. In 2016, Vermont residents drank 18,600 gallons of beer, 3,274 gallons of wine, and 949 gallons of spirits for a total of 3.08 gallons per capita.
One of the interesting things about this study is the beverage preference of residents and it seems like Montanans love their beer. In 2016, Montana residents drank 31,048 gallons of beer, 3,454 gallons of wine, and 2,062 gallons of spirits for a total of 3.11 gallons per capita.
5. North Dakota
In 2016, North Dakota residents drank 22,384 gallons of beer, 1,601 gallons of wine, and 1,932 gallons of spirits. If you look at other states, that looks like a really low number to be part of the Top 5 for states that drink the most alcohol. But when you remember that the population of the entire state is just under 756,000, you can see how they get to 3.26 gallons per capita.
The study notes that some of the results may be affected by a large number of tourists visiting the state, which given the presence of Las Vegas, may explain Nevada's ranking at fourth on the list. In 2016, Nevada residents drank 75,640 gallons of beer, 11,432 gallons of wine, and 8,455 gallons of spirits for a total of 3.46 gallons per capita.
Another surprise, since you'd expect the alcohol-friendly beach state on this list to be Florida with its spring break-fueled consumption, but instead it's the tiny tax-friendly Mid-Atlantic state. In 2016, Delaware residents drank 21,097 gallons of beer, 4,513 gallons of wine, and 3,461 gallons of spirits for a total of 3.72 gallons per capita.
2. District of Columbia
DC residents, perhaps not surprisingly, seem to rely on alcohol to get through the week. In 2016, the home of the United States government drank 14,632 gallons of beer, 4,642 gallons of wine, and 2,389 gallons of spirits. for a total of 3.85 gallons per capita. Pretty sure most of that high consumption rate was due to the Nats and the Caps seasons that year; not sure what else would have caused DC to drink in 2016.
1. New Hampshire (4.76 gallons per capita)
For a tiny place, the Granite State sure packs it away, coming in the top of the list of states that drink the most alcohol. In 2016, New Hampshire residents drank 47,430 gallons of beer, 7,804 gallons of wine, and 5,554 gallons of spirits. for a total of 4.76 gallons per capita. The study did note that part of the reason New Hampshire has the highest rate seen in the study is cross-border sales, where visitors from neighboring states cross over into New Hampshire to make alcohol purchases.