There was more confirmation this week of Wisconsin’s dysfunctional drinking culture. The news that 12 of the nation’s 20 “drunkest” cities are in Wisconsin may draw predictable jokes about partying and “drinking Wisconsinbly,” but for many health care professionals it’s no laughing matter.
“For those of us in public health, for people in health care, it’s well past time to be joking about this or to be laughing it off,” said Karen Timberlake, who directs the Population Health Institute at the UW School of Medicine. “We’re not talking here about a beer with friends after work or a glass of wine with dinner. In Wisconsin, 1 out of 4 adults report drinking more than 9 drinks on occasion, almost 5 times per month. That’s well above anything that we would consider binge or excessive drinking.”
The website 24/7 Wall Street used a variety of statistical sources to arrive at the rankings, identifying the U.S. cities with the highest and lowest excessive drinking rates. Appleton, Oshkosh-Neenah, Green Bay and Madison captured the top four spots for excessive drinking. Other Wisconsin cities in the top 20 were La Crosse-Onalaska, Fond du Lac, Eau Claire, Wausau, Sheboygan, Racine, Janesville-Beloit and Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis.
Timberlake said we all pay for things like lost productivity, health care, drunk driving — and family trauma. “Think about our human services system, and children who are experiencing abuse or neglect as a result of an alcoholic parent or caregiver.”