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Sober Statistics

Here’s an interesting list. Usually, we hear about the top drinking cities, but this is the top ten (or bottom ten, depending on your perspective) cities for NOT drinking, that is the cities and towns that don’t drink very much. I found the list in a U.S. News & World Report article but the data comes from the CDC (and is for communities of 10,000 or more people). The first four are pretty clear, but then it’s a four-way tie for fifth followed by a two-way tie.

  1. Provo-Orem, UT (99.4)
  2. Idaho Falls, ID (97.9)
  3. Hickory, NC (97.8)
  4. Ogden, UT (97.5)
  5. Brownsville, TX (97.2)
  6. Fayetteville, NC (97.2)
  7. Raleigh, NC (97.2)
  8. Wichita, KS (97.2)
  9. Cheyenne, WY (97.0)
  10. Farmington, NM (97.0)

Not many surprises from what you might guess, except that when you look deeper at the statistics, something odd emerges, at least to me. Those parenthetical numbers represent the percentage of people surveyed who said they don’t drink “more than two drinks per day” (if adult males) or “more than one drink per day” (if adult females). Otherwise — get this — they’re considered “heavy drinkers.” That’s right, have more than two drinks on the same day ever and you’re a heavy drinker. It’s hard to imagine a more useless way to define this, unless you’re trying to inflate the numbers and make it appear that problem drinking is more of a … well. problem, than it actually is. Defining heavy drinkers as “adult men having more than two drinks per day and adult women having more than one drink per day” undoubtedly accomplishes that, especially when you consider that the CDC defines binge drinkings as five or more drinks during one session (4 if you’re female). This is how to create a problem that doesn’t exist. (Note: I don’t mean that there aren’t problem drinkers, I only question that it’s as epidemic as these statistics suggest.) The way it is now, drink one or two beers a day, you’re fine. But have a third and you’re a “heavy drinker.” Have two more for a total of five and you’re — gasp — a “binge drinker.” Really?

Using the same data from the CDC survey, the top 10 heaviest drinking cities are:

  1. Reno, NV
  2. Palm Bay-Melbourne, FL
  3. Boulder, CO
  4. Austin, TX
  5. Charleston, SC
  6. McAllen, TX
  7. Naples-Marco Island, FL
  8. Riverside, CA
  9. Cape Coral, FL
  10. Barnstable Town, MA

That’s a strange list, too, and not what I would have predicted. Three in Florida and six total from the southern states. You just have to wonder how truthfully people answer a question like this when it’s posed.

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