New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows residents in Chicago’s Lake View neighborhood have some of the highest rates of binge drinking in the country.
The data looked at the 500 largest cities in the country, split into more than 28,000 smaller areas. Large swaths of Lake View ranked in the top 1 percent for binge drinking nationally in 2014, the most recent year data were available.
The CDC estimates that in some parts of Lake View, more than a third of residents are engaged in binge drinking, which is defined as more than five drinks at a time for men and four drinks for women.
This is the first time estimates have been available at the neighborhood level for national comparison, and the data comes as no surprise to some people who work and live in Lake View, which is home to scores of sports bars and gay nightclubs.
“I probably would have been able to easily guess that if it was a question on ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,’ ” said Jestin Davis, a cook at Dimo’s pizza in Lake View.
Davis said he can see the effects of binge drinking around the neighborhood. He said he has seen people putting their mouths on the sneeze guard at Dimo’s, pretending to “make out with the glass.”
Katie Scheubur, a Dimo’s customer, said she has been barked at like a dog by drunk “bros.” Scheuber also said she’s witnessed many fights and people who drank too much being hoisted into ambulances.
According to the CDC, the cost of excessive alcohol consumption in the United States — including lost work productivity to health expenses — was $223.5 billion in 2006. Almost three-quarters of these costs were due to binge drinking. Excessive drinking, which includes binge drinking, also contributes to 1 in 10 deaths for working-age adults.
Loyola University’s Dr. Majid Afshar said binge drinking is common place in some communities, so people don’t realize the dangers.
Afshar pointed out, perhaps unsurprisingly, that binge drinking increases risky behavior that can result in accidents and injuries. His research also shows that binge drinking can negatively impact the immune system.
“We did a study where we took young, healthy volunteers and we performed a binge drinking test,” he said. “And we noticed within the first five hours their immune system is altered.”
The CDC’s new local data fits in with what researchers have previously found about drinking at the state level. In 2014, 20 percent of Illinois adults reported binge drinking, compared to 16 percent nationally.
“Finding that some Chicago neighborhoods have a high prevalence of binge drinking is not out of line for what we find at the state level,” said Dr. Robert Brewer, head of the CDC’s Alcohol Program. “Illinois and many states in the upper midwest and northern plains tend to have the highest binge drinking rates.”
Brewer said local officials have several options to try to reduce binge drinking, mostly around restricting how easy it is for someone to get alcohol. He said strategies used to reduce smoking could work for binge drinking.
“Alcohol is very sensitive to price,”Brewer said. “A 10 percent increase in the price of alcohol reduces consumption by about 7 percent.”
Brewer said steps such as increasing taxes on alcohol, limiting hours or days alcohol can be sold and eliminating volume discounts have been shown to reduce excessive alcohol consumption.
Shannon Heffernan and Chris Hagan are reporters at WBEZ. You can follow them at @shannon_h and @chrishagan.