Alcohol consumption is good for your health: an epidemological study

For over a century the WCTU, the medical profession, and others have been telling us that alcohol consumption is bad for our health. However, the epidemiological facts show that this is not true. First, Table I below shows that the seven states with the lowest life expectancy also rank among the lowest in alcohol consumption, while Table II shows us that 11 of the top 20 states for life-expectancy have higher than average levels of alcohol consumption — and that in fact, 5 of the top 20 states for life expectancy are also in the top 10 for alcohol consumption. (For comparison, Table III shows the states, only 11, which conform to the expected pattern, with the states drinking relatively less having longer life expectancies and those drinking relatively more having lower life expectancies.) Table IV gives all the states of the union and their ranks in longevity and in alcohol consumption together: the source for longevity is Wikipedia, and the source for alcohol consumption per capita is World Population Review (Table V).

In Table IV the state with the highest life expectancy gets a 1 in that column, and the heaviest drinking state gets a 1 in the other column. The totals in the third column tell you whether and how far each state diverges from what would be expected if alcohol use correlated with bad health. If alcohol use did convert unfailingly to bad health, than every state would get a total of 51: the healthiest state (1) would drink the least, and the least healthy state (50) would drink the most. If high alcohol use correlated perfectly with good health, these numbers would range from 2 (best health, most alcohol) to 100 (least alcohol, worst health). And oddly enough, there really are 5 states with numbers in the 90s, with the least alcohol consumption and the worst health, while of the 10 states with the longest life expectancies, only two are even below average in per capita alcohol consumption, and not far below either. As it happens, there are only 11 “normal” states whose total scores are at all close to 51 (Table III), and 39 states whose total scores are 60 or more or else less than 40. The most prominent result is seen in Table I, in which 5 of the 6 states that drink the least are among the 6 states with the lowest life expectancy.

A few small states adjacent to larger states with higher liquor taxes may show misleadingly high alcohol consumption: these include New Hampshire, Maine, Delaware, and Rhode Island. The statistics for several other states probably have been distorted by their large tourism industries: these includes Hawaii, Florida, Louisiana, Nevada, and perhaps a few small New England states. Finally, the longevity statistics of several states probably have been distorted by very large retiree populations: at least Florida and Arizona. I have starred* these states where appropriate. I draw no conclusions about these possible problems with my thesis, but just mention them to show that I am a serious scientist.

To sum it up, the epidemiological evidence strongly indicates that low alcohol consumption is bad for the health. The states with the lowest life expectancies drink the least, while some of the heavy-drinking states have long life expectancies. The conclusion is clear: someone who wants to die young should just quit drinking and move to West Virginia. Someone who wants to live a long and happy life might think of moving to Minnesota and having a few beers.

Of course, the WCTU and the medical profession might quibble: “States don’t drink alcohol and states don’t die: individuals do”, or “There are other causes of death besides alcohol, you know. ” To these people I can only respond: “Why do you hate Science?

TABLE I
STATES WITH LOW ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION AND LOW LIFE EXPECTANCY

Rank in life expectancyStateRank in alcohol consumption per capitaCombined
44. Tennessee3882
45. Oklahoma4792
46. Arkansas4894
47. Kentucky4491
48. Alabama4391
49. Mississippi3483
50. West Virginia4999

TABLE II
STATES WITH RELATIVELY HIGH ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION AND RELATIVELY HIGH LIFE EXPECTANCY

Rank by
life expectancy
StateRank by alcohol consumption per capitaCombined
1*. Hawaii1617
2. California2224
4. Minnesota1317
5. Connecticut2429
6. Massachusetts1925
7 Colorado916
10.* Florida1828
15. Vermont621
16. North Dakota420
17. * New Hampshire118
20. Wisconsin828

TABLE III
” NORMAL” STATES WITH AVERAGE LIFE EXPECTANCY AND AVERAGE ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION

Life expectancy rankStatePer capita alcohol consumption
rank
Total
9. Washington3241
12. * Arizona3143
13. Oregon1548
14. * Rhode Island1741
18. Nebraska3654
19. Virginia3958
21. Iowa2343
23. Illinois2851
24. Texas2953
28. Wyoming1442
30. * Maine1141

TABLE IV
ALL STATES OF THE UNION RANKED BY AVERAGE LIFE EXPECTANCY, TOGETHER WITH THEIR RANKS ACCORDING TO PER CAPITA ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION
Life expectancy source

States with a high retiree population, states with very large tourism industries, and small states with relatively low liquor taxes adjacent to larger states with high liquor taxes are all *starred.

Life expectancy rankStatePer capita alcohol consumption rankTotal
1.* Hawaii1617
2. California2224
3. New York3336
4. Minnesota1317
5. Connecticut2429
6. Massachusetts1925
7 Colorado916
8. New Jersey2533
9. Washington3241
10. * Florida1828
11. Utah5061
12. * Arizona3143
13. Oregon1548
14. * Rhode Island1741
15. * Vermont621
16. North Dakota420
17. * New Hampshire118
18. Nebraska3654
19. Virginia3958
20. Wisconsin828
21. Iowa2343
22. Idaho729
23. Illinois2851
24. Texas2953
25. Maryland4166
26. Alaska1238
27. South Dakota1037
28. Wyoming1442
29. Montana534




30. * Maine1141
31. Nevada334
32. Kansas4577
33. * Delaware235
34. Pennsylvania2761
35. North Carolina4075
36. New Mexico3066
37. Michigan2663
38.Georgia4684
39. Missouri2160
40. South Carolina3575
41. Indiana3778
42. Ohio4284
43. * Louisiana2063
44. Tennessee3882
45. Oklahoma4792
46. Arkansas4894
47. Kentucky4491
48. Alabama4391
49. Mississippi3483
50. West Virginia4999


TABLE V
STATES OF THE UNION RANKED IN ORDER OF PER CAPITA ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION
States with very heavy tourism and states with low liquor taxes adjacent to more populous states with high liquor taxes are *starred.

STATERANKGALLONS OF ETHANOL PER YEAR
*New Hampshire14.67
*Delaware23.52
*Nevada33.42
North Dakota43.16
Montana53.1
*Vermont63.06
Idaho72.94
Wisconsin82.93
Colorado92.88
South Dakota102.87
*Maine112.85
Alaska122.85
Minnesota132.79
Wyoming142.78
Oregon152.74
*Hawaii162.66
Rhode Island172.62
*Florida182.61
Massachusetts192.55
*Louisiana202.55
Missouri212.52
California222.49
Iowa232.4
Connecticut242.4
New Jersey252.36
Michigan262.36
Pennsylvania272.34
Illinois282.32
Texas292.26
New Mexico302.26
Arizona312.25
Washington322.22
New York332.21
Mississippi342.17
South Carolina352.16
Nebraska362.16
Indiana372.15
Tennessee382.14
Virginia392.13
North Carolina402.13
Maryland412.08
Ohio422.03
Alabama431.99
Kentucky441.95
Kansas451.92
Georgia461.9
Oklahoma471.85
Arkansas481.78
West Virginia491.74
Utah501.35



TABLE VI
ALCOHOL TAX BY STATE

States with low liquor taxes which are adjacent to more populous states with high liquor taxes are *starred.

StateAlcohol Tax by State
Washington$33.22
Oregon$21.95
Virginia$19.89
Alabama$19.11
Utah$15.92
North Carolina$14.58
Kansas$13.03
Alaska$12.80
Maryland$11.96
Michigan$11.95
Illinois$10.91
Ohio$9.83
Montana$9.75
Minnesota$9.01
Indiana$8.55
Arkansas$8.41
Louisiana$8.33
Mississippi$8.11
Vermont$7.68
West Virginia$7.62
Pennsylvania$7.21
Georgia$6.50
New York$6.44
Florida$6.20
New Mexico$6.06
Idaho$5.98
Oklahoma$5.56
New Jersey$5.50
South Carolina$5.42
*Rhode Island$5.40
Connecticut$5.40
North Dakota$5.12
Massachusetts$5.03
South Dakota$4.67
*Delaware$4.50
Tennessee$4.46
Hawaii$3.79
Nebraska$3.75
Nevada$3.60
California$3.30
Wisconsin$3.25
*Maine$3.03
Arizona$3.00
Iowa$2.68
Kentucky$2.50
Texas$2.40
Colorado$2.28
Missouri$2.00
Wyoming
*New Hampshire




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