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Nevada and Utah are on opposite ends of alcohol consumption spectrum, study finds

This is a close-up image of a glass of whiskey on a bar top.
Thomas Hawk
Flickr Creative Commons
A glass of whiskey poured at the Petrossian Bar in Las Vegas. Nevada has one of the nation's highest levels of per-capita alcohol consumption, according to Pew Research Center.

With a new year underway, many Americans have sworn off alcohol for “Dry January” or as a New Year’s resolution. A new nationwide report reveals alcohol consumption trends vary widely in the Mountain West.

Pew Research Center analyzed national surveys and sales data to find Americans’ behaviors and attitudes when it comes to drinking alcohol.

It found the average American 21 or older drank nearly 3 gallons of pure alcohol in 2021, the most recent data from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). That’s equivalent to more than 600 “standard drinks” – one drink typically contains about 0.6 ounces of alcohol, according to the NIAAA.

In the Mountain West, three states ranked above the national average in per-capita consumption in 2021. In Nevada, the average person 21 or older drank nearly 4 gallons of pure alcohol, and in Wyoming and Colorado, the average person consumed more than 3 gallons of pure alcohol.

Trending below the national rate were New Mexico (2.6 gallons of pure alcohol), Idaho (2.3 gallons), and Utah (1.5 gallons), which had the lowest levels in the country.

Using years of Gallup survey data, Pew Research Center found that fewer young adults and teens are drinking compared to two decades ago. Katherine Schaeffer, a research analyst at Pew and report co-author, said one reason experts cite is the population of young Americans is more racially diverse.

“A greater share of them are racial and ethnic minorities,” she said. “And white Americans, just historically, have tended to drink alcohol at higher rates, culturally.”

Schaeffer said experts also point to rising awareness of health concerns surrounding alcohol use, noting that “younger adults are more likely to say that they see a connection between drinking and health.”

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The photo included in this story is licensed under Flickr Creative Commons.

Kaleb is an award-winning journalist and KUNR’s Mountain West News Bureau reporter. His reporting covers issues related to the environment, wildlife and water in Nevada and the region.