Every now and then you stumble upon statistics that leave you stupefied, almost speechless. This is one of those days. And I am not in any way mocking or minimizing the very real problem of binge drinking, drunk driving and self-medicating with alcohol. But a study at 24/7 Wall Street is genuine cause for concern: they conclude that 7 out of America's Top 10 cities for excessive drinking rates can be found in Wisconsin. Say what?

Credit: 24/7 Wall Street and USA TODAY
Credit: 24/7 Wall Street and USA TODAY
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When I first stumbled upon this study I thought it had to be wrong. Were they making stuff up - what was the methodology involved. Show me the data! According to 24/7 Wall Street: "To identify the U.S. metro areas with the highest and lowest excessive drinking rates, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the percentage of adults 18 and older who report binge or heavy drinking within a 30 day period across 381 metro areas."

Why Wisconsin? Long winter nights? If that's the case then Michigan, New Hampshire and Montana should also have similar rates of excessive drinking, right? There is something more going on. 24/7 Wall Street adds: "Social factors also play a role. In Wisconsin, alcohol consumption is, for many, an integral part of the state’s culture. Half of the heaviest drinking cities are in Wisconsin."

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Credit: Worldpopulationreview.com
Credit: Worldpopulationreview.com
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Worldpopulationreview.com has a map with metro areas reporting the most excessive/binge drinking in the US, and there is certainly a cluster showing up over the Upper Midwest.

At the other end of the drinking spectrum is Utah, where religion plays a big role. According to 24/7 Wall Street: "Over 60% of the state’s population identify as Mormon, a religion that teaches its followers to avoid alcohol consumption. Four of Utah’s five metro areas rank among the cities with the lowest excessive drinking rates." Well that explains that, I guess.

Everything in moderation, except for moderation?
Everything in moderation, except for moderation?
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There is something else going on in Wisconsin, a convergence of factors, including peer pressure and the sheer availability of alcohol everywhere you turn. Milwaukee Magazine sums it up: "High outlet density – basically, the sheer number of stores, bars and restaurants that sell alcohol – encourages frequent and heavy drinking. “We not only have a lot of bars in Wisconsin compared to the rest of the nation, but more places that sell alcohol." Is that it, easy access? Perhaps.

I don't have the answer key, but the data is the data, and the data is cause for alarm. Some people can handle moderate amounts of alcohol with no issues. But for others there are no guardrails and social drinking can be a slippery slope.

Take it easy out there - drink responsibly and if someone obviously needs help with problem-drinking, maybe it's your turn to step up and be a real friend to someone in need.

There is no higher calling.

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