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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Binge Science: Drinking

I wrote in "The Risk of the Cure" about binge drinking.

There are some even more remarkable statistics here from a CDC study.

Among the results from the link:

"17.1% said they binge drank within the past 30 days. The rate was twice as high in men as in women (23.2% versus 11.4%)"

"...binge drinking increased with household income, reaching 20.2% among those earning $75,000 or more"

"There was state-to-state variation in the rate of binge drinking, ranging from 10.9% in Utah to 25.6% in Wisconsin."

If this is true then in Wisconsin (my home state) one quarter of all adults binge drink.  A quick check of this site (using the "All Arrests" section for comparison) confirms this (at least to some degree).

Very interesting - what does the state you live in have to do with how much you drink?

Certainly some states, like Utah, that have very restrictive liquor laws should have less - but there is still a wide variation among states (Texas, for example, has far more people than Wisconsin, and a reputation for a certain amount of lawlessness, yet has far fewer DUI arrests).

Perhaps its the kind of people that live in each state - if there is such a thing...

I bring this up because of this article in the WSJ: "Is Your Personality Making You Put on Pounds."

This is an interesting article and it goes into some very common personality types and what they might have to do with food consumption: Night Owl's, Stress Junkies, and so on.

Now my question is does the same hold true for drinking?

Perhaps you state and your personality type have something to do with it?

Perhaps your state to some degree controls you personality type or vice versa?

While at first these may seem like silly questions the more you think about it the more likely it must be true...

When I was in college in 1975 there was a survey in Playboy magazine about drinking in college.  Various campuses were rated we read - but wait! Where was the Univerisity of Wisconsin, Madison?  It wasn't listed but we knew that it had to be somewhere on the list...

At the end of the article there was a comment that the schools listed were simply drinking schools and that "professionals" like UW Madison.

These results always stuck in my mind over the last 35 or so years.

Years ago we used to return to Wisconsin once a year for Thanksgiving and I used to participate in a local "10K Turkey Run."  The race was at like 9:00 AM and was held at the local Elks or other club.  Post race drinking commenced by 10:00 AM for the faster runners.

In college I had dormmates from all over the country.  Most picked up on the "binge drinking" model rather quickly.

Now Wisconsin in those days was rather cold - the year I married Mrs. Wolf there were at least 30 days in a row where the high was below 0 F - so this was not a personality issue.

In subsequent years we lived in other states: New York, PA and I traveled to probably 30 or more.  People in general didn't seem all that different.

Yet somehow the boundaries of their states makes their behavior different.

One think may be that the more "rural" people you have the more drinking - Wisconsin - being very rural, has a lot.  Or perhaps there are certain personality traits associated with where you live: city, town, country, loner, socialite, etc.

The second question the WSJ article brings to mind is "just because your personality makes you tend toward one thing or another does that mean there is something wrong with you?"

This question also seems to involve emotional driven science: "Oh My God! You're Obese!"

But are you really obese or is it just your body type or your diet?

Obesity varies by state as well...  (I wrote about this in"Killing Me Softly, Part II").

(But the worst of the drinkers doesn't seem to have an obesity problem, or perhaps the most obese don't drink much...??)

I think this kind of science quickly becomes silly.

We don't understand people scientifically.  We don't know what they think and why.

As I wrote last time I don't think our minds can handle modern information flow well.

But science marches on.

Making "fact" from random observation.

Is there really a drinking problem?

What is drinking "too much?"

How do we know?

Maybe drinking is a result of too much stress?

Perhaps there are too many asshole's in Wisconsin which drive people to drink.

Maybe there are more insane spouses there...

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