An Incredibly Exact Calculation of Precisely How Many People Throw Up on St. Patrick’s Day

An Incredibly Exact Calculation of Precisely How Many People Throw Up on St. Patrick’s Day

Most people who celebrate St. Patrick’s Day have some kind of barfing story — they might be the barfer themselves, or have been an eyewitness to a particularly gross bit of barfing, or been privy to the knock-on effects of a big ol’ barf (slipping in it, sitting in it, accidentally kicking over a cup full of it, etc., etc.).

But how many people end up regurgitating bright green beer on the festival of Ireland’s patron saint? He emptied the Emerald Isle of snakes, but how many people’s stomachs empty themselves of their contents in his honor? Let’s do some math! 

Vomit Base Level

First, we need to establish a base level of vomiting, by figuring out how much chunder is upchucked on an average, unremarkable day.

You vomit different amounts at different times in your life. Babies and toddlers vomit incredibly casually, then from about 10 to 16 for most people, it’s limited to theme parks, excessive birthday cake and food poisoning. There are college students and heavy drinkers for whom two sessions of hardcore vomiting a week is perfectly normal. And, for everyone who goes decades without spewing, there are really extreme habitual hurlers. 

Lance Ozanix, lead singer of long-running Californian thrash band Skitzo, vomits at the end of every show. Artist Millie Brown, known for her collaborations with Lady Gaga, chunders as part of her performance. Steve-O, of Jackass fame, fit several lifetimes’ worth of vomit into a few particularly disgusting, hilarious years. Plus, there are endless people who vomit regularly from anxiety, working out, overeating or a bunch of other reasons. There’s a lot of cookies being tossed out there.

The problem with using a mean average — i.e., everything totalled up and then divided — is that a short vomit-heavy phase can really skew your spew stats. If you have a year where you throw up every week, then 20 years when you don’t throw up at all, you average out at two-and-a-half upchucks a year even when the feeling of bile-coated teeth is a distant memory. A sickly toddler who becomes a never-vomiting adult might end up with a higher mean average annual barf count than someone who had a steady stomach in childhood but gets chunk-blowing drunk once a month as an adult.

But, all in all, an average of four vomits a year seems reasonable. That gives any given person a 1.1 percent daily chance of ralphing. This means, based on a global population of 7.9 billion, on a totally unremarkable day, 87 million people chunder. You can’t argue with that — it’s mathematics.

Buckle-Hatted Boozehounds

The next thing to work out is how many people across the world are getting on the sauce for St. Patrick’s Day.

The population of Ireland is five million, while the global Irish diaspora totals around 70 million. It’s more than just the Irish celebrating on St. Patrick’s Day, though — after all, on St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is Irish — but how can we work out how many more?

Extremely roughly is the answer. Let’s say that in the 10 most Irish cities in the U.S. based on this Wikipedia list, everyone brings a non-Irish friend to the party, and that just kind of works out. New York City has an Irish population of just 5 percent, but the city itself is huge, so that still makes a lot of people — let’s assume they all bring a friend, too.

A lot of math later, we have an extra 1,241,160 people — a million and a quarter — to throw in there. Oh, and it’s a national holiday on Montserrat, so their population of 5,000 people are presumably going for it, too. This gets us to 76,255,000 people around the world celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. A bunch of them are going to puke, puke, puke!

Drinks by the Shitload

So, booze. A lot of people hit the bar. One-third of respondents to a Nielsen survey on St. Patrick’s Day said they were planning on heading to a bar. A survey from 2017 by Bankrate found that in any given week, one-third of Americans across all adult demographics went to a bar. Straight away then, St. Patrick’s Day drinkers are doing a week’s worth of bar visits in one day. 

And they’re buying a lot of drinks. In 2018, March 17th saw a 174 percent uptick in beer sales and a 153 percent increase in spirits. Furthermore, pre-11 a.m. beer sales were up 1,465 percent from the week before. Admittedly, pre-11 a.m. beer sales probably weren’t enormously high the week before, but a 15-fold increase is still quite something. 

For the purposes of our spew math, let’s go for a straightforward double-doubling. There are way more bar visits during the weekend, so however tempting it might be, it would be disingenuous to bring a multiple of seven into a week’s worth of bar visits in a day — doubling makes it all pretty conservative chunderwise. And let’s call it twice as much booze being sold.

Wrecked Recklessness

Getting messed up enough to chuck all over the place involves an element of recklessness, a devil-may-care attitude that is perhaps more present on an occasion like St. Patrick’s Day, surrounded by cheerfully fucked-up green-clad partygoers. 

Most people aren’t criminals, and don’t become criminals even when really bomb-ass drunk, at full heave-where-I-wanna-heave levels of inebriation. But statistics for not giving a shit aren’t readily available. That said, Chicago-based digital marketing agency Digital Third Coast Digital looked at crime statistics in 20 cities over the 2018 St. Patrick’s Day weekend. Savannah, Georgia topped the list with a 32.4 percent spike in reported crime, while Atlanta came in 20th with a 5.2 percent drop. The mean of these 20 stats is a 9.2 percent increase.

Admittedly, criminality and vomiting aren’t analogous. Way more people will barf than harm anyone or damage property. If we go for a rough rule of thumb that five more people will chunder than break the law, we can extrapolate to it sensibly suggesting a 46 percent increase in vomiting.

Altogether Destroyed

So, where are we? Lots of people have asked their friends that on St. Patrick’s Day, of course, but in less of a mathematical recap context. What we’ve established is:

  • 76,255,000 people are celebrating.
  • On any normal day, they have a 1.1 percent chance of vomiting.
  • But twice as many as usual are going to bars, and drinking twice as much.
  • And they’re 46 percent more likely to be reckless enough to get to a vomiting point than usual.

That gives us a number. Not just any number, the number. The number science has dreamt of reaching. The number of people around the world, every St. Patrick’s Day, who expel quantities of hot rough sick from their guts. 

That number: 4,898,621.2.

We’ll ignore the 0.2 — that’s someone doing a fifth of a vomit, a burp that brings a teaspoon of stomach acid with it. The big number, that’s the good shit, nearly five million people hurling their fucking guts up. Other than the 0.2 guy, these people aren’t doing little spit-ups, they’ve been downing pitchers of green-ass beer. If they each bring up just 16 ounces of vomit — a tallboy’s worth, which is obviously just the tip of the big smelly iceberg — that’s a whopping 612,328 gallons of viridescent puke. That’s almost enough to fill an Olympic swimming pool to a depth of six-and-a-half feet, in repulsive drunken vomit. 


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