Interesting piece in WashPost the other day, Where the heaviest-drinking Americans live
…who among us is likely to do the most drinking this holiday season? The Department of Health and Human Services recently updated the official federal statistics on the percent of state residents ages 12 and older who drink at least once a month. Here’s a map of how those figures break down by state for the years 2014 and 2015.
New England is home to the nation’s heaviest drinkers — New Hampshire, where about 64 percent of residents age of 12 or older drink monthly, is tops in the country. Vermont, Maine and Connecticut also come in at drinking rates above 60 percent. Hard-drinking cheeseheads in Wisconsin see to it that their home is the only Midwestern state in the top tier of American drinkers.
The next tier of heavy drinking states are all in the northern part of the country. Some researchers posit that there may be a relationship between heavy drinking and latitude — at the country level, alcohol consumption tends to increase the farther you get away from the equator. This could be a function of the potential for boredom and depression during winter months when the nights are long, the days are short, and baby it’s cold outside — for a prime example of this, see recent stories involving alcohol and misconduct among people who live in Antarctica.
…But other cultural factors can attenuate this relationship. On the map above, take a look at Utah and particularly Idaho. They’re in the bottom tier of the states for drinking frequency. Utah, where only 31 percent of adults drink in a given month, comes in dead last. This is almost certainly because of the large Mormon populations in those states — 58 percent of Utahans are Mormon, as are 24 percent of people in Idaho. Mormonism generally prohibits the use of alcohol and other drugs.
There’s likely a similar religious influence in places Alabama, Mississippi and the other Southern states where drinking is low. Those states have large evangelical Christian populations, many of whom are abstainers.
And the monthly data show why seasonal adjustments are necessary when crunching the numbers:
there’s no doubt that the holidays have traditionally been a time for boozing it up. Take a gander, for instance, at the total monthly alcohol sales in the United States. If you squint really hard you may detect a seasonal trend — those spikes are December of each year.