Alcohol consumption hit a 25-year high in the United States last year, but drinking habits vary widely across the country, a new survey found.
According to a Gallup poll, 67 percent of Americans like to imbibe. That’s a level of boozing not seen since the late ‘70s when a record high 71 percent of Americans reported drinking alcoholic beverages.
The survey found that for many drinking is a “social” thing. But other factors, including the economy, may play a role in driving more people into bars or to drink at home, according to Jon Taffer, a bar consultant and host of Spike TV’s “Bar Rescue,” which focuses on the revival of dying bars.
“People have lost their jobs, and they have more free time,” Taffer told USA TODAY. But it’s not necessarily depression over lost work so much as it is that age-old desire to interact with people, to find ties that bind so to speak, that makes people drink, he said.
And where do they drink the most? Apparently, New England and the upper plains states, according to the Beer Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based trade group. The mid-Atlantic region, the Deep South, and Texas were listed by the group as “the driest parts of the country.”
The Beer Institute ranks New Hampshire as the top per capita consumer of alcoholic beverages in the entire country. According to the institute, the residents of the Granite State down an average of 6.7 gallons of wine and 3.8 gallons of beer each every year, more the double the national average. New Hampshire spirit sales are no doubt helped by the fact that the there are no taxes on wine and liquor. It doesn’t hurt that the state also happens to be a popular year-round tourist destination for folks who like to ski and enjoy the outdoors.
In terms of what Americans prefer to drink at the moment, beer intake is down, wine is up, and hard liquor sales are almost unchanged. According to the Beer Institute, wine consumption has grown 35 percent since 1994, with Americans drinking more last year than ever – an average of about 2.3 gallons apiece. Beer consumption, on the other hand, dropped by 7 percent over the same period, although 20.7 gallons per person might seem like a lot – even for the average beer connoisseur.
The nation’s industrial heartland, notes Taffer, is still king when it comes to beer drinking, while most drinkers on the East Coast, in the Southwest and Southern California generally prefer wine or liquor.
The Gallup poll did not specifically address problem drinking, but another Gallup survey conducted in July found that 17 percent of drinkers say they consume more alcohol than they should.
The American Heart Association still defines moderation as one or two drinks a day for men and one a day for women. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommends no more than four drinks a day and 14 a week for men and three a day or seven a week for women to avoid a greater risk of heart and liver disease or other alcohol-related problems. The institute says that about a third of Americans don’t drink at all, 37 percent drink within recommended limits, and about 28 percent drink more than the daily or weekly-recommended limits.