(NEXSTAR) — It’s hard to overlook the connection between Colorado and alcohol (especially beer). While it’s easy to glamourize that part of our history, there are some apparent downsides: Recently released data shows some Colorado counties may be prone to excessive drinking.
Earlier this year, the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute released its 2023 County Health Rankings and Roadmaps report, which is meant to raise awareness about factors that can impact health outcomes and disparities nationwide.
Researchers use numerous data points to determine the length and quality of life on a state-by-state basis. Among those factors is alcohol use, including reported excessive drinking.
To determine the rates of excessive drinking, researchers used self-reported data from the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance system. For the 2023 report, the University of Wisconsin used data from 2020 — the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Excessive drinking includes both binge drinking (four or more drinks on one occasion for women, five or more for men) and heavy drinking (eight or more drinks a week for women, fifteen or more for men).
In Colorado, 20% of adults self-reported excessive drinking. That’s the seventh-highest rate in the nation, tied with Kansas, Nevada, Oregon, Missouri, Michigan, New Hampshire, and Alaska. (That being said, Colorado also has the eighth-lowest rate in the U.S., because of so many states being tied).
Of Colorado’s neighbors, it’s Nebraska that had the highest rate of excessive drinkers at 23%. That’s the fourth-highest in the nation, tying with North Dakota. All others had lower rates than Colorado: Wyoming at 19%, New Mexico at 18%, Arizona at 17%, and Oklahoma at 14%. Utah had the lowest rate in the nation at 12%.
Overall, 19 states had an excessive drinking rate at or above 20%.
Wisconsin is home to the most over-drinkers: 26% of adults in the state — which sports an MLB team named in honor of its beer brewing industry — self-reported excessive drinking.
When reviewing county-level data in Colorado, researchers found the northern county of Routt had the highest rate of self-reporting excessive drinkers in Colorado at 24%. Four other counties — Clear Creek, Denver, Park, and Pitkin — had rates of 23%.
Only 16 of Colorado’s 64 counties had excessive drinking rates below 20%. The lowest rates were in Costilla and El Paso counties at 17%.
The interactive map below shows the rates reported per Colorado county. You can view a nationwide map here.
The University of Wisconsin also reviewed the number of alcohol-impaired driving deaths per state and county.
Though it has a relatively low rate of adults drinking excessively (18%), California had the highest number of alcohol-impaired driving deaths at 5,185 between 2016 and 2020, according to data collected from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System.
While Colorado had a higher rate of adults drinking excessively, it reported far fewer alcohol-impaired driving deaths over the same time at 1,055 — the 18th-highest in the nation, coming in behind Wisconsin at 1,064 deaths.
However, researchers found that 34% of driving deaths in Colorado involved alcohol, tying with Maine for the seventh-highest rate in the nation. Montana had the worst rate at 46%, followed by North Dakota at 41%.
Researchers found that in Colorado, El Paso County reported the most driving deaths involving alcohol at 151, or 42% of all driving deaths reported during the reviewed time frame. Dolores County technically had the highest rate at 75%, with three of the four deaths reported involving alcohol.
Nationally, 27% of all driving deaths involved alcohol, according to the County Health Rankings.
“When consumed in excess, alcohol is harmful to the health and well-being of those that drink as well as their families, friends, and communities,” researchers noted.
A recent study published in the Journal of American Medicine found that more Americans are dying from alcohol-related deaths, especially women. Between 2018 and 2020, researchers say CDC shows mortality rates among men increased by 12.5%, Nexstar’s WPIX reports. Among women, that rate was almost 15%.