Pennsylvania, known for its rich history, culture, and diversity, also grapples with a significant issue of excessive drinking. A recent report from the financial news and opinion website 24/7 Wall St. reveals that 19.2% of adults in Pennsylvania report engaging in excessive drinking, ranking the state 24th in the nation, just slightly higher than the national average of 19.0%.
Excessive drinking, which encompasses binge and heavy drinking, can lead to serious health and social problems including liver disease, cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, divorce, and traffic accidents.
Surprisingly, the city in Pennsylvania with the highest rate of excessive drinking isn’t Philadelphia, the largest and most populous city in the state, or even Pittsburgh, the second-largest city and home to the Steelers. It’s not Reading, which boasts the highest divorce rate in the state at 11.4%.
The title goes to State College, the city that hosts the main campus of Penn State University, one of the largest and most prestigious public universities in the country.
Why State College?
State College is a small city situated in the heart of Pennsylvania, boasting a population of around 42,000. Surrounded by picturesque mountains and lush forests, it offers a high quality of life at a reasonable cost.
Notably, State College is a quintessential college town, home to over 40,000 students attending Penn State University. This student population accounts for nearly half of the city’s inhabitants.
College towns are renowned for their lively nightlife and vibrant social scene, and State College is no different. A report from 24/7 Wall St. reveals that approximately 24.0% of adults in the city consume excessive amounts of alcohol, the highest percentage in the state.
The city also boasts a high density of bars and liquor stores per capita, making alcohol readily available and affordable for both residents and visitors.
The report also points to the influence of sports on the city’s drinking habits. Penn State University has a rich athletic legacy, particularly in football, with the Nittany Lions clinching two national championships and boasting a devoted fan base.
Football games often come with tailgating, revelry, and, consequently, a potential for heightened alcohol consumption and inebriation.
The Consequences of Drinking
While indulging in drinking can be a source of enjoyment and socializing for many individuals, it can also bring about negative effects on both the person and the community.
Excessive alcohol consumption can impair one’s ability to make sound judgments, affect coordination, and slow reaction times, thereby heightening the likelihood of accidents, injuries, and instances of violence.
Furthermore, it can lead to harm to vital organs like the liver, brain, heart, and others, contributing to the development of chronic illnesses and mental health disorders.
Additionally, it can have an adverse impact on one’s academic, professional, and personal performance, as well as strain relationships and finances.
As reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, excessive alcohol use results in over 140,000 deaths in the United States annually.
It is also a significant factor in approximately 30% of traffic-related fatalities, claiming the lives of over 13,000 people each year. In Pennsylvania, the data suggests that 35.6% of driving-related deaths are linked to alcohol, ranking it as the 12th highest rate in the nation. In State College, the rate is even higher, standing at 40.0%.
What Can Be Done?
There are several strategies and interventions that can be employed to prevent and treat alcohol abuse and addiction:
- Increasing the price of alcohol and limiting its availability through measures like higher taxes, restricted sale hours, and stricter enforcement of age and ID laws.
- Introducing screening and counseling programs in various settings such as healthcare facilities, schools, and workplaces to identify individuals who may be drinking excessively and connect them with appropriate support services.
- Providing education and information to the public, especially young people, about the risks and consequences of alcohol misuse, and promoting responsible and healthy drinking habits.
- Expanding treatment and recovery options for individuals struggling with alcohol use disorder, including medication, therapy, and participation in support groups.
- Building strong community coalitions and partnerships that involve different sectors and stakeholders (government, health, education, law enforcement, business, and media) to coordinate and implement effective policies and programs aimed at preventing and reducing alcohol-related problems.
State College boasts numerous positive attributes and accomplishments, yet it grapples with a significant issue related to excessive drinking. It is not unique in facing this challenge, as several other cities and states in America encounter similar struggles.
Nonetheless, through acknowledging the problem and implementing measures, State College has the potential to transform into a more wholesome, secure, and contented community for both its inhabitants and guests.