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10 Worst Cities for Binge Drinking Trends

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If you sell life insurance, disability insurance or long-term care insurance, you have an obvious stake in wanting your clients to stay healthy for a long time.

If you sell annuities, you may look at life expectancy projections from a different perspective.

Either way: One of the health factors that can have the biggest effects on their morbidity, and their all-cause mortality, is binge drinking.

(Related: 10 States Where People With Money Binge Drink)

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines binge drinking as cases of men drinking five or more drinks in about two hours time, and women drinking four or more drinks in about two hours time.

Most people who binge drink are not addicted to alcohol, but the CDC estimates binge drinking cost the United States about $249 billion in 2010, or $2.05 per drink.

Researchers reported in August 2017, in a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, that binge drinking an average of more than one day per week increases the odds that adults will develop cancer by about 22%, and the odds that they will die from any cause by about 13%.

The CDC collects data on binge drinking through the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey program (BRFSS). The CDC asks the female participants whether they have had four or more drinks on one occasion in the past 30 days, and the male participants whether they have had five or more drinks on one occasion in the past 30 days.

For the U.S. cities where the prevalence of binge drinking among adults increased the most between 2012 and 2017, see the data cards in the slideshow above.

Our Methods

We took the BRFSS dataset and pulled out the binge drinking data for 2012 and 2017.

We then filtered the data to include only metropolitan areas where at least 100 BRFSS survey participants reported binge drinking in 2012, and again in 2017. We did that to try to exclude areas where small, random fluctuations in the number of people who said “yes” could throw off the binge drinking prevalence rates.

Instead of ranking communities by the 2017 binge drinking rates, we ranked them in terms of percentage-point changes in binge drinking prevalence between 2012 and 2017.

That way, communities that have worked hard to prevent binge drinking get a chance to shine, even if their overall rate of binge drinking is still high.

If a community had a 10% binge drinking rate in 2012, and a 15% binge drinking rate in 2017, we counted that as a 5-percentage-point increase in its binge drinking rate.

The overall 2017 binge drinking rates in the cities included ranged from a low of 11%, in the Ogden, Utah, area, to a high of 26%, in the Fargo, North Dakota, area.

The median rate was about 17%.

The percentage-point change between 2012 and 2017 ranged from a decrease of about 6 percentage points, in the Salisbury, Maryland, area, up to an increase of about 5.6 percentage points, in one community in Arkansas.

The median change was a decrease of 2.4 percentage points. That means that, in the typical U.S. community, adults were less likely to report binge drinking in 2017 than in 2012.


BRFSS data is collected by the federal government and is free for financial professionals to use.

The datasets, and data filtering tools, are available here.

— Read The 5 States Where Death Is Most Unfairon ThinkAdvisor.

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