Kentucky’s rate of binge-drinking has been one of the highest in the nation, according to a new study.
The state ranked third, at 652, in the total number of alcoholic drinks consumed annually during heavy drinking episodes by people who reported being binge drinkers, according to the study by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The highest number was in Arkansas, at 841; followed by Mississippi, at 831; then Kentucky; then Hawaii, at 611.
The national average was 467 drinks for each binge drinker. Researchers calculated Washington, D.C., had the lowest number, at 316.
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“This study shows that binge drinkers are consuming a huge number of drinks per year, greatly increasing their chances of harming themselves and others,” Dr. Robert Brewer, a co-author on the study, said in a news release.
The information used in the report was from 2015, but the study was the first such analysis of the data, according to the CDC, which released it Friday.
The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, also calculated the number of binge drinks per adult spread across the entire population of states.
Kentucky came out near the top on that as well, at 94 drinks per adult — eighth in the nation.
The highest on that measure was North Dakota, at 128 drinks. Utah was at the bottom, at 46.
The study was based on information from a survey that the government uses to gather data on a variety of health issues.
The CDC undertook the analysis to better understand binge drinking. For men, that is defined as consuming five or more drinks in about two hours, and four or more for women.
Such episodes of heavy drinking can result in impaired driving, risky sexual behavior and violence, and increases the risk of health problems including cancer and heart disease, the agency said.
Binge drinking is responsible for more than half the 88,000 deaths attributable to alcohol in the U.S. each year, according to the CDC.
The researchers found that a total of 17% of all U.S. adults, or 37.4 million, people, reported binge-drinking in 2015.
The respondents reported an average of 53 binge-drinking episodes a year, downing an average of 7 drinks per episode.
The study showed that men were nearly twice as likely as women to engage in binge drinking, and that men drank 80 percent of the drinks consumed during binge-drinking episodes.
Other findings included that the prevalence of binge drinking was higher among people ages 18 through 34, and that binge drinkers at the lower end of the socioecnomic scale — a household income under $25,000 a year and less than a high-school education — downed substantially more binge drinks than people with higher incomes and more education.
Brewer, the co-author of the study, said the results show how important a comprehensive approach is to prevent binge drinking, focusing on reducing both the number of times people binge-drink and the amount they drink during those episodes.
Strategies such as limiting the number of alcohol outlets in an area, limiting the hours they can be open, and establishing legal liability for serving drunk people or underage people can help reduce binge drinking, the CDC said in its release.
The federal Preventive Services Task Force also recommends alcohol screening and brief intervention by health providers during routine care, the agency said.
The government recommends that if people use alcohol, it be used in moderation, meaning up to one drink per day for adult women and up to two drinks per day for men, the CDC said.
The agency has more information on excessive alcohol use at www.cdc.gov/alcohol.