Wine & Spirits

I’ll Drink to That: Inside America’s Drunkest States

February 19, 2023

In a dilapidated two-family house in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Blanche DuBois came face to face with Stanley Kowalski. “Have a shot?” asks the broody husband of Blanche’s sister. “No, I rarely touch it,” says Blanche, Tennessee Williams’s doomed heroine in A Streetcar Named Desire.

Stanley responds, “Some people rarely touch it, but it touches them often.”

Alcohol is everywhere, and booze is as much a part of the culture as literature, music, politics, and art. In fact, alcohol has a tendency to infiltrate all aspects of life, sometimes with severe consequences.

Journeying Back 103 Years

On October 28, 1919, the Senate overrode President Woodrow Wilson’s veto of the Volstead Act, which would ban the consumption of alcohol in the United States.

Thanks to efforts by the newly enfranchised female demographic who founded the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and similar efforts by the Anti-Saloon League, activists did what some considered impossible: made drinking illegal.

It’s hard to imagine a world where drinking a martini, a glass of wine, or a bottle of beer would be illegal. Was it a response to an unhealthy populace? The siren cry of a conservative, religious movement? An effort by female voters to exert their control?

The historical context is essential to consider through a current lens as we live in a world that combats inflation, recovers from a pandemic, and operates in an increasingly vitriolic political landscape.

Which States Are The Drunkest?

Wisconsin is the drunkest state in America, according to research conducted by 24/7 WallSt, utilizing data from Country Health Rankings. 25.2% of Wisconsin adults drink heavily, which is 6% more than the national average. 35% of fatal car accidents are alcohol-related, a daunting number that is 9% higher than the national average.

Coming in second is Iowa, where 24.6% of adults drink excessively. South Dakota, Montana, and North Dakota round out the top five spots.

South Dakota

Adults who drink excessively: 24.4% (US rate: 19.8%)

Fatal car accidents involving alcohol: 36.1% – 5th highest (US rate: 26.6%)

Median household income: $59,533 – 18th lowest (US median: $65,712)

Population: 884,659


Adults who drink excessively: 24.3%

Fatal car accidents involving alcohol: 46.4% – the highest

Median household income: $57,153 – 11th lowest

Population: 1,068,778

North Dakota

Adults who drink excessively: 24.1%

Fatal car accidents involving alcohol: 41.4% – 2nd highest

Median household income: $64,577 – 20th highest

Population: 762,062

Health and Economic Costs of Excessive Drinking

The effects of drinking are numerous. Melinda Wenner Moyer asks herself, “Chardonnay, why do you fail me?” The writer recently explored a new term called ” hangxiety,” which describes the shame spiral one often experiences after a night of drinking, regardless of the number of drinks consumed.

“People sometimes use the word to describe the emotional plunge they feel after drinking that doesn’t quite constitute a proper hangover,” she says.

Hangovers can be brutal, but excessive drinking comes with additional side effects that are much more permanent.

In 2020, 11,654 people died in alcohol-impaired driving deaths. That number represents a 14% increase, according to data compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. While all these deaths are preventable, it’s important to note that not all deaths result from someone exceeding the legal limit. Two thousand forty-one people were killed in alcohol-related crashes where a driver had a Blood Alcohol Level (BAC) of .01 to .07 – under the legal limit of intoxication in most states.

Heavy drinking might look glamorous on film and television, but it can have serious long-term consequences. Excessive drinking puts you at risk for alcohol poisoning, hypertension, acute myocardial infarction, sexually transmitted infections, unintended pregnancy, fetal alcohol syndrome, and suicide.

There are economic side effects as well. It is estimated that alcohol abuse costs $249 billion yearly in lost productivity, healthcare, and criminal justice expenses.

Which States Are The Least Drunk?

Given their more stringent laws on alcohol consumption, it should come as no surprise that Utah is the least drunk state in America, with only 11.9% of adults reporting excessive drinking. The percentage of fatal car accidents involving alcohol is 21.7%, lower than the national average but not the lowest among other car accidents across the country (Mississippi claimed the top spot).

Oklahoma, Alabama, West Virginia, Mississippi, and Arkansas round out the states that are considered the least drunk.


Adults who drink excessively: 14.5% (US rate: 19.8%)

Fatal car accidents involving alcohol: 26.8% – 20th lowest (US rate: 26.6%)

Median household income: $54,449 – 8th lowest (US median: $65,712)

Population: 3,956,971


Adults who drink excessively: 14.8%

Fatal car accidents involving alcohol: 25.9% – 17th lowest

Median household income: $51,734 – 5th lowest

Population: 4,903,185

West Virginia

Adults who drink excessively: 15.2%

Fatal car accidents involving alcohol: 26.1% – 18th lowest

Median household income: $48,850 – 2nd lowest

Population: 1,792,147


Adults who drink excessively: 15.9%

Fatal car accidents involving alcohol: 18.5% – the lowest

Median household income: $45,792 – the lowest

Population: 2,976,149


Adults who drink excessively: 15.9%

Fatal car accidents involving alcohol: 25.7% – 15th lowest

Median household income: $48,952 – 3rd lowest

Population: 3,017,804

Alcohol has left an indelible mark on culture, politics, and society. While its health effects can be numerous, a little moderation goes a long way, and maybe one day, that will catch on in Wisconsin, America’s drunkest state.

This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.



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