What Factors Lead to Excessive Alcohol Consumption in New Hampshire?

A lot of alchohol
Photo by franticstudio/iStockphoto.com

For every American over the age of 15, about 2.6 gallons of alcohol are consumed each year. But about 32 percent of Americans over the age of 15 do not drink alcohol, meaning per capita alcohol consumption among Americans is really at about 3.7 gallons per person per year.

In New Hampshire, the per capita consumption rate comes in at about 4.76 gallons per person, significantly higher than the national average. Why is alcohol consumption at higher-than-average quantities so commonplace in New Hampshire? And what might be done to address this health problem?

New Hampshire Alcohol Consumption Far Exceeds the Norm

While there is no such thing as a “healthy level” of alcohol consumption (all levels of drinking, even just one drink, come with a degree of health risk), the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism does offer insight on what is considered “moderate” drinking. Moderate drinking is defined as up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. Binge drinking is defined as a level of drinking that brings the blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 percent or higher. This usually occurs after four drinks for women and five drinks for men in a two-hour time span.

In New Hampshire, residents consume about 4.76 gallons of alcohol per year. That’s the highest per-capita rate of alcohol consumption of any state in the nation, far exceeding the target of 2.1 gallons (or less) that public officials set in 2020.

Underage binge drinking is also a growing problem in New Hampshire. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, about 21 percent of New Hampshire teens engage in binge drinking, a number far above, say, the 15 percent of teens who binge drink in nearby New York State. New Hampshire ranked second (behind North Dakota) in the entire nation for its high prevalence of binge drinking among under-age individuals.

Health Risks and an Economic Burden in Tandem

As a result of excessive drinking, New Hampshire takes a hit both in the health of its population and in the health of its economy.

Alcohol is a costly problem. Nationally, alcohol consumption costs the United States about $249 billion each year. Those costs appear in the form of healthcare expenses, losses in workplace productivity, criminal justice expenses, motor vehicle crash costs, property damage, etc. Such costs come out to about $2.05 per drink consumed in the U.S. each year, or about $807 per person.

And this is an economic burden that all Americans pay, regardless of each individual’s drinking patterns. About $2 of every $5 of the financial cost of excessive drinking are funded by federal, state, and local governments, i.e., tax dollars. It’s a significant economic burden from an unnecessary expense that is shared by all Americans.

In New Hampshire, the total cost of excessive alcohol consumption comes in at about $959 million per year. At the same time, hundreds of residents die from alcohol-related causes each year, with over 100 annual deaths resulting from drunk driving alone.

Factors that Lead to Heavy Alcohol Consumption and Addiction

The problem with nailing down factors that lead to alcohol abuse in any given geographic region is that substance abuse affects people differently. Each person has their underlying reasons for why they turned to heavy drinking or drug use in the first place, and it often has nothing to do with their geographic location.

However, there are some indicators we can look at.

Underage Drinking
Photo by LSOphoto/iStockphoto.com

For New Hampshire, the exceptionally high prevalence of underage binge drinking is likely a leading factor. As mentioned earlier, more than 20 percent of New Hampshire youth admitted to binge drinking at least once within the previous month. As it turns out, drinking at an early age is a significant predictor of whether one will develop an alcohol addiction.

According to America’s Health Rankings, three significant health challenges in New Hampshire are:

  • A high drug death rate.
  • A significant difference in health status by high school education.
  • A high prevalence of frequent mental distress.

Health status, co-occurring drug use, and mental distress can all be factors that lead to alcohol consumption, which may indicate why alcohol consumption is so prevalent in New Hampshire.

Drug and Alcohol Rehab Centers Offer a Way Out of the Addiction Trap

While New Hampshire is a good case study of what happens when a population consumes too much alcohol, it’s important to remember that this is a problem all across the country. According to the CDC, about 16 percent of Americans admit to binge-drinking, and about 7 percent admit to heavy drinking. Alcohol causes about 93,000 deaths in the United States each year, more than all drug deaths combined. Because of alcohol, a legal, accepted, and societally “normal” substance, about 2.7 million years of potential life are lost each year, just in the United States alone.

Despite the harsh effects of alcohol abuse, there is a solution to this dire problem. Residential drug and alcohol treatment centers offer an effective way out of any addiction crisis. Rehabs are a safe place where recovering addicts can work on the underlying issues that caused them to turn to alcohol in the first place.

If you suspect that your loved one is struggling with a drinking problem, please work with them to ensure they get the help that they need. No matter where they live, alcohol addiction is universally toxic and life-threatening. Please help them seek treatment today.










Reviewed by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS, LADC, RAS, MCAP



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.