Health & Fitness

'Driest' cities are in the Southeast. They're not the healthiest, alcohol study says

This June 16, 2016 file photo made with a fisheye lens shows bottles of alcohol during a tour of a state liquor store in Salt Lake City.
This June 16, 2016 file photo made with a fisheye lens shows bottles of alcohol during a tour of a state liquor store in Salt Lake City. The Associated Press

Although cities across the Southeastern states might be the most sober in the U.S., they’re not necessarily the healthiest.

It might not be a surprise that cities in states such as Alabama, West Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina, are some of the driest in alcohol consumption in the U.S., since some states in the Southeast have strict alcohol sale laws.

On the other hand, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is the drunkest city in the U.S., with 22.5 percent of the population who either binge drink or heavily drink.

While excessive alcohol consumption might cause some health risks, the driest cities across the U.S. are not the healthiest, according to a study published by 24/7 Wall St., a financial news and opinion company.

“While the health risks associated with excessive alcohol consumption are well established, a large share of excessive drinkers often does not translate to poor health outcomes across a population,” the study said.

“...because cities with higher excessive drinking rates also tend to have higher incomes, residents can afford healthier diets and lifestyles than lower-income residents in many cities with low excessive drinking rates.”

Rocky Mount, North Carolina, was one of the driest cities in the country. Out of 20 cities, predominantly in the Southeast, Rocky Mount ranked 19th.

Excessive drinking includes binge drinking, heavy drinking and use of alcohol by minors and pregnant women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Binge drinking is defined as five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women within two hours, the CDC says.

The U.S. average excessive drinking rate is 18 percent, the study said.

Rocky Mount has one of the smallest shares in a U.S. metro area that drinks excessively, with only 12.9 percent of adults who do, the study said. The city’s median household income is $38,972, which is about $20,000 less than the national median household income.

Although not many Rocky Mount adults seem to drink excessively, they do practice some unhealthy behaviors.

Twenty percent of Rocky Mount adults smoke, compared with the average 17 percent of Americans who smoke, and were less likely to exercise than other residents across the state and country, the study said.

Less than 12.8 percent of the populations in these Tennessee cities drink excessively: Kingsport, Knoxville, Johnson City, Cleveland, Morristown and Jackson.

Other cities in the Southeast had low rates of excessive alcohol consumption compared with the national average: Gadsden, Alabama, 12.4 percent; Parkersburg, West Virginia, 12.2 percent; Charleston, West Virginia, 11.1 percent; and Beckley, West Virginia, 10.8 percent.

Unhealthy behaviors reported in the Southeastern cities included obesity and lack of exercise, which could lead to diabetes, high blood pressure and some types of cancer, the study said.

Sunday marked the first day that most NC businesses could sell alcohol before noon on Sunday, a freedom granted by the so-called “brunch bill” Gov. Roy Cooper signed on June 30. North Carolina until then was one of only three states to prohibit Su