Thursday, 24 February 2011
According to a report by the World Health Organization, the US doesn't even come close to being the top alcohol-consuming nation in the world.
The study, which was released a couple weeks ago, discussed in-depth statistics on alcohol consumption for every country, including the amount of alcohol consumed per capita. A world map that illustrates these numbers is shown above, although the statistics are from 2005.
The study examined a number of factors, including governmental policies on alcohol consumption, availability of alcohol, percentage of consumption that is non-regulated/illegally produced, types of alcohol consumed, legal driving limit, and the relationship between alcohol consumption and wealth.
It was not surprising to see many European countries near the top of the list, though Ireland was only ranked 14th. Eastern Europe also appears to consume a lot of alcohol, holding all but one of the top ten slots: Croatia (10), Belarus (9), Slovenia (8), Ukraine (6), Estonia (5), Russia (4), Hungary (3), Czech Republic (2), and the drunkest country on Earth, The Republic of Moldova.
A small country, situated between Romania and Ukraine, that became an independent state in 1991 as part of the dissolution of the USSR (this according to Wikipedia, naturally the first place I looked to learn some more about "liquor land").
(You can view a slide show of the "Top 25 Drunkest Nations" at the Huffington Post).
These ranks were determined by per capita consumption, measured in Liters of pure alcohol. In the US, we consumed 9.4 Liters of pure alcohol per capita (yearly average from 2003-2005), about 10 Liters behind the world leader, who consumed 19.2 Liters per capita. (View the United States' booze-consuming profile here).
America's drink of choice is beer, Comprising over half (53%) of the alcohol that we consume.
One reason the US may have ranked so low is that the WHO considered a country's adult population to include everyone age 15 and up. In the US you are not considered an adult until you are 18, and cannot (legally) drink until you are 21.
American drinking patterns were also considered to be on the lower risk side (a 2 out of 5, with 1 being least risky and 5 being most risky). Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Nicaragua, and Ecuador exhibited "high risk" drinking patterns (consult the original study to learn more about how these ranking were determined)
A few more interesting statistics:
-Alcohol-attributed deaths, on an international scale, are most common among the upper-middle income bracket (900 deaths per one million individuals), and are least common among the low income group (just over 200).
-Drinking overall was more common among the wealthy.
-Men are far more likely to engage in high-risk drinking and in heavy episodic drinking (drinking at least 60 grams or more of pure alcohol on at least one occasion in the past week), while women are far more likely to abstain from drinking altogether. This holds true both on the international level and in each world region.
-Regions with high Muslim populations (North Africa, Middle East, Southern Asia, and the Pacific Islands) tend to have low rates of alcoholic consumption and high rates of abstention.
-Spirits are the most popular form of alcohol internationally, with almost 50% of recorded alcohol consumption being in the form of spirits. Beer is quite popular in the Americas, and wine is common in Europe
-Beer, and not wine, is the drink of choice in Spain. "The traditional European differences in beverage preference, where northern Europeans once preferred beer while southern Europeans drank more wine, are diminishing."
This study presents a lot of raw data and breakdowns from 2004-2005. I wonder if the numbers have been significantly altered since the global economy took a turn for the worse towards the end of the decade. I guess we'll have to wait for the next "Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health" to find out.
What are your thoughts on this study? What statistics surprised/didn't surprise you? Will you think differently about how you drink now?