Interactive Map: At Home With NJ’s Heaviest Drinkers

“Excessive drinking” in 2010. Health officials define excessive drinking as having an average of more than one drink at a time for women or two for men, or binge drinking — 4 drinks at one occasion for women, 5 for men. Shown are the percent of adults who engaged in “excessive drinking” in the month prior to the survey.

Source: Health Indicators Warehouse

Some 15 percent of New Jerseyans have more than one or two alcoholic drinks when they imbibe, according to data from the federal Health Indicators Warehouse.

That’s not good news. Women who knock back more than one drink at a sitting during the course of a month are engaging in “excessive drinking.” Men who take more than two drinks at a time over a 30-day period fall into the same category.

“Binge drinkers” up the alcohol ante considerably. Women who consume four or more drinks at a single occasion during a month qualify for the label. For men, it takes five or more drinks.

The 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, the most recent data available for individual counties, found that 13.8 percent of New Jerseyans 18 and older had engaged in binge drinking, and 15.1 percent in excessive drinking, in the month before the survey was taken.

The percent drinking excessively in 2010 was lower than in 2009, when 16.1 percent of New Jersey adults reported drinking to excess, but higher than in 2005, when the rate was 14.7 percent.

One of New Jersey’s most urban counties, Middlesex, had the lowest rate of excessive drinking — 11.5 percent in 2010. On the other hand, two of its most rural counties — Sussex and Salem — had the highest rates, both with more than 2 of every 10 adults saying they had drunk excessively in the previous month.

The CDC links excessive alcohol use to a number of health problems, particularly alcoholic liver disease and cirrhosis of the liver, and notes that alcohol can be a factor in car accidents and suicides. Nationally, there were almost 26,00 alcohol-related deaths, or 8.3 per 100,000 people, in 2010.

New Jerseyans fall roughly in the middle of the states for excessive drinking. The lowest rates were found in Tennessee, 7.3 percent, and Utah, 9.3 percent. The states with the highest incidence of excessive drinking were Wisconsin, at 22.9 percent, and Alaska, at 21.4 percent.

The CDC’s 2011 National Health Interview survey found that a little more than half of American adults are regular drinkers, meaning they had had at least a dozen alcoholic drinks in the prior year, while 2 in 10 Americans said they had never had a drink.

To see the data on excessive and binge drinking for any county, click on the county. Also listed is the number of liquor stores per 10,000 people by county. There seems to be little correlation between the number of stores serving alcohol and excessive drinking: Both the counties with the largest (Passaic) and smallest (Burlington) number of stores had excessive drinking rates that ranked them in the middle.

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