Utah may be stone-cold sober — but we don’t have the lowest rate of drinking in the country, study says

Another day, another study that shows Utah is stone-cold sober.

According to America’s Drunkest States, a report released Friday by 24/7 Wall Street, Utah has the third lowest level of excessive drinking in America, with only 12.4 percent of adults saying they binge drink or consume alcohol excessively.

Tennessee was the most sober state, with only 11.2 percent of adults drinking excessively; West Virginia was second at 11.4 percent.

Utah’s level is still well below the national average of 18 percent, the financial news and opinion site said in a news release.

The reason, authors noted, is that 60 percent of Utah residents are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“Low excessive drinking rates in Utah are partially attributable to religious faith,” they said. “Over half of the state’s population identify as Mormon, a religion that expressly forbids alcohol consumption.”

North Dakota, according to the report, is the drunkest state, with nearly 25 percent of adults reporting binge drinking or drinking heavily. It was followed by Wisconsin, with 24.5 percent, and Alaska, with 22.1 percent.

States with a lower share of adults drinking excessively tend to have lower rates of alcohol-related driving deaths, according to the study.

North Dakota, for example, has the highest rate of alcohol-related driving deaths, with 46.7 percent of all roadway fatalities attributable to alcohol consumption, the report said.

Only 19.7 percent of driving deaths in Utah involve alcohol, the lowest alcohol-related driving death rate in the country and far below the national rate of 30 percent, according to the study.

Those statistics don’t take into consideration Utah’s pending tough new drunken driving law — which will be the toughest in the nation. Passed in 2017, it lowers the state’s blood-alcohol content for driving under the influence from 0.08 to 0.05 and goes into effect Dec. 30.

To determine the ratings, 24/7 Wall Street used Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics from every state that show the percentage of men and women over 18 who report binge or heavy drinking.

Excessive alcohol consumption, according to the CDC, includes binge drinking and heavy drinking. Binge drinking is defined as four or more drinks in a single occasion for women; and five or more for men. Heavy drinking is defined as at least eight drinks per week for women and 14 for men.

The prevalence of excessive drinking varies substantially across the country. For example, the states with the highest rates of excessive drinking are concentrated in the Midwest. The states with the lowest rates are predominantly in the South, the report states.

The state-by-state statistics also measured overall health, since excessive drinking can lead to a variety of health problems and significantly shorten a person’s life expectancy. The number of adults in Utah in fair or poor health was 12.9 percent, the sixth lowest in the country.

It also looked at regional differences. When it comes to Utah, Salt Lake County ranks as the “drunkest metro area,” the study notes.

George Koob, the director of the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, told 24/7 that there is a clear correlation between a state’s excessive drinking rate and income.

“Among the states with the highest excessive drinking rates, the annual median household income tends to be much greater than in states with lower drinking rates,” the report says.