Survey: More Alaskans are obese, but fewer are binge-drinking and smoking

  • Author: Tegan Hanlon
  • Updated: February 7, 2018
  • Published February 7, 2018

The good news: Fewer Alaskans are binge-drinking or smoking cigarettes. The bad news: More Alaskans are obese or have diabetes.

That's according to the most recent results from an annual nationwide telephone survey.

"In some areas Alaska is on the right track as we make positive strides to reduce tobacco and alcohol use, and increase access to quality health care," Alaska's chief medical officer and director of the Division of Public Health, Dr. Jay Butler, said in a statement.

"Alaska still has work to do, both to meet our state's health goals, and, more importantly, to address issues such as obesity, which contributes to the poor health of many Alaskans."

According to the survey, 20 percent of Alaska adults smoked cigarettes in 2016, a decline from 24 percent in 2007.

While an improvement, it's still higher than the 17 percent of American adults who smoke, according to 2016 phone survey data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The number of Alaskans who say they "binge-drink" — defined as men who consume more than five drinks at a time, or women who consume more than four drinks at a time — fell slightly from 19.5 percent in 2007 to 18.2 percent in 2016.

Nationwide, 16.9 percent of Americans binge-drink, according to the survey results.

The CDC and the state Division of Public Health conducted the annual telephone survey in Alaska, completing about 7,400 interviews based on a random selection of cellphone and landline numbers.

Butler said the results help the department determine the health challenges Alaskans face and evaluate the impacts of its efforts to address them.

Other survey findings include:

• More Alaskans are obese: The number of Alaskans considered obese based on their body mass index rose from 28.1 percent in 2007 to 31.1 percent in 2016. Nationwide, 29.9 percent of people were obese in 2016.

• More Alaskans have diabetes: The number of Alaskans who have diabetes increased slightly from 6.3 percent to 7.5 percent between 2007 and 2016. That's below the national average of about 11 percent.

• More Alaskans have access to affordable health care: In 2016, 13.4 percent of Alaskans said they needed to see a doctor in the past year but couldn't afford it, a decrease from 15.7 percent in 2007. Nationwide, 12 percent of Americans said they needed to see a doctor but couldn't pay the fee.

• Marijuana use has stayed about the same: In 2016, 15.4 percent of Alaskans smoked marijuana, down slightly from 15.7 percent the year before. Those are the only two years of data available.

The CDC did not have nationwide telephone survey data on marijuana use. According to a 2016 Gallup poll, 13 percent of American adults said they were marijuana smokers.