Oregonians drink more alcohol than the average American and more than a quarter of the population admit to binge-drinking regularly, according to a study compiled for SafeHome.org. Willamette Week ballyhooed Oregon as the 15th “drunkest” place in America.
The real story may not be quite as bad as it sounds, though there is definitely a dark side to the data. The study indicates nearly 63 percent of Oregonians drink regularly, which is down slightly from a decade ago. Annual per capita alcohol consumption for Oregonians 14 years old or older is 2.76 gallons, which may be influenced by the relatively high number of craft breweries (8.8) per drinking-age adult.
The study didn’t evaluate the impact of in-state wineries or distilleries. Oregon is home to more than 500 wineries, trailing only California and Washington.
The darker side of the data indicates Oregon has the fourth highest alcoholism rate at 7.87 percent of the population 18 years or older, substantially above the national average of 5.82 percent. Oregon ranks third in the percentage of alcoholics who need, but who are not receiving treatment. That may account for Oregon ranking fifth in alcohol-related deaths at 21.2 per 100,000 people. The national death rate is 12.6. Oregon does not rank in the top 10 states for alcohol-related arrests.
The “drunkest” place in America honor falls to the District of Columbia with 70 percent of adults who drink regularly, up 7.7 percent in the last decade, nearly 39 percent who admit to binge-drinking regularly and annual per capita alcohol consumption of 3.81 gallons. The lowest ranked state is Arkansas with 43 percent of adults who drink regularly, a rate sharply down over the last decade.
Washington came in 27th in the “drunkest” composite list. Sixty percent of adults drink regularly, which like Oregon is slightly down from the previous decade. Washington’s binge-drinking rate is comparable to Oregon and its annual alcohol per capita consumption is slightly lower at 2.24 gallons. Washington has a lower per capita craft brewery ratio, but it does have more wineries than Oregon.
Idaho ranks 21st and the study indicates the state’s drinking rate is going up. Its annual alcohol per capita consumption is a nudge higher than in Oregon and Washington. The national per capita consumption average is 2.3 gallons.
The data in the study is drawn from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which is part of the US Department of Health and Human Services.
The study authors offer one note of consolation. “Our puritanical ancestors drank quite a bit more than we do today – to the tune of about 5.8 gallons per person per year; that compares with just 2.3 gallons per person on average in modern America.”