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Heavy drinking in Utah ‘serious threat to public health’ according to new report

Posted at 7:05 PM, Jul 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-05 21:05:34-04

SALT LAKE CITY – A first of its kind study takes a look at the true effects of alcohol in Utah.

The Utah Department of Health focused on binge drinking and finds that this risky behavior is to blame for more than 700 deaths in Utah each year. Utah is ranked 7th in the nation for the number of alcohol poisoning deaths.

“Everyone thinks of motor vehicle accidents, but there could also be falls, drownings, thinks like that in addition to chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease,” said Anna Buckner, Epidemiologist, Utah Dept. of Health.

Binge drinking is considered five or more drinks for men and four drinks for women.

While alcohol use and overall binge drinking rates in Utah are well below the national average - with 13.4% of Utah reporting excessive alcohol use in 2016, Buckner said, “The population that does drink, they drink with high intensity and frequency.”

In 2016, researchers found that Utahns reported drinking an average of once a week, consuming an average of eight drinks per binge.

“18-34 is the age group that we see the highest rate of excessive alcohol use. Males drink at a higher rate than females,” said Buckner.

Binge drinking was more common among people with lower income households and lower education levels.

“A lot of times its use is more acceptable and people aren’t necessarily aware of what is moderate use and what is not,” said Buckner.

Researchers will now use the data to come up with comprehensive solutions to prevent binge drinking.

“Utah is already doing many of them like maintaining limits on days and hours of sale, controlling how many places can sell alcohol in a certain area,” said Bucker.

Other 2016 findings include:

  • Among Utahns aged 20 and older, death rates for alcohol-related causes were 38.6 per 100,000, making excessive alcohol use and its effects a leading cause of death in Utah for that age group.
  • At least 5,400 emergency department (ED) visits and 3,100 hospitalizations occurred in Utah in 2014 due to alcohol-attributable causes and this is likely an underestimate.
  • Binge drinking was more prevalent among males (16.7%) compared with females (8.3%).
  • Binge drinking decreased as a person aged. Only 1.7% of Utahns aged 65 and older reported binge drinking in the last 30 days compared to 18.4% of Utahns aged 18 to 34.
  • Utahns aged 25 and older with a high school degree/GED or less education reported binge drinking significantly more than those with some post high school education or a college degree.
  • Utahns who identified as homosexual, bisexual, or another non-heterosexual orientation had a higher rate of binge drinking (17.2% higher) compared with the Utah population overall.
  • Utahns who identified as American Indian/Native Alaskan (18.3%) or Hispanic (16.5%) reported the highest prevalence of binge drinking compared with other races and ethnicities.