Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

The world’s heaviest drinkers

New data shows which countries drink the most alcohol New data shows which countries drink the most alcohol Shutterstock
22 Dec
2014
A World Health Organization report has revealed the world’s highest consumers of alcohol

It may not be a surprise that countries such as Belarus (17.5 litres per adult per year), Moldova (16.8 litres), and Lithuania (15.4 litres) top the global table of alcohol consumption when measuring entire populations, but there are some interesting results to be found when you dig into the data a little deeper.

Russia and Romania complete the top five, while the UK and the US rank 25th and 49th respectively, behind many other European countries such as Ukraine (13.9 litres), Andorra (13.8 litres), and Finland (12.3 litres).

alcohol-consumption WEB 

The following map, from the WHO report, shows how the world’s highest consumers of alcohol are largely gathered together in Eastern Europe and across the former Soviet Union, whilst Islamic countries such as Indonesia and those across the Middle East have, understandably, some of the world’s lowest alcohol consumption:

i9789240692763 eng-43Per capita total consumption of alcohol. Image: WHO

However, the picture changes dramatically when abstainers, those adults who never drink alcohol, are removed from the data. When measuring alcohol consumption just amongst those people who actually drink the stuff, an entirely new set of countries climb to the top: Chad, the UAE, The Gambia, Tajikistan and Mali.

These five countries – whose average alcohol consumption when including non-drinkers is only 4.4 litres, 4.3 litres, 3.4 litres, 2.8 litres and 1.1 litres respectively – illustrate the impact religion has on national data such as this. All five are predominantly Islamic states, and the majority of their populations never drink alcohol. Therefore those few individuals who do drink alcohol, disproportionally affect the data.

alcohol-consumption drinkers

Chad also has an exceptionally high proportion – 91 per cent – of its alcohol consumption officially listed as ‘unrecorded’, a figure beaten globally only by Nepal’s 92 per cent. The WHO defines unrecorded alcohol as ‘alcohol that is not taxed in the country where it is consumed because it is usually produced, distributed and sold outside the formal channels under government control’. The report estimates unrecorded alcohol to make up nearly a quarter (24.8 per cent) of total worldwide alcohol consumption.

The report also draws attention to the interestingly varying worldwide definitions for what constitutes an alcoholic drink. Fifty-four countries, including Australia, Ireland, and the USA, define alcoholic beverages as anything containing more than between zero and one per cent alcohol by volume, while for 28 other countries – including France, Germany and New Zealand – it is anything up to two per cent and over. Interestingly, the two countries top of the above global rankings also have the highest required alcohol by volume definitions; over 5.2 per cent for Chad, and over 7 per cent in Belarus. The UK, meanwhile, has no legal definition.

Related items

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe to Geographical!

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • The Human Game – Tackling football’s ‘slave trade’
    Few would argue with football’s position as the world’s number one sport. But as Mark Rowe discovers, this global popularity is masking a sinister...
    Essential oil?
    Palm oil is omnipresent in global consumption. But in many circles it is considered the scourge of the natural world, for the deforestation and habita...
    National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    The green dragon awakens
    China has achieved remarkable economic success following the principle of developing first and cleaning up later. But now the country with the world's...
    Mexico City: boom town
    Twenty years ago, Mexico City was considered the ultimate urban disaster. But, recent political and economic reforms have transformed it into a hub of...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in PEOPLE...

I’m a Geographer

With fellow student Tom Micklethwait, Charles is travelling the route…

Development

As part of our monthly series of reports looking at…

Development

Few would argue with football’s position as the world’s number…

Explorers

For British cave divers, Chris Jewell and Jim Warny, who…

Cultures

Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that football…

Development

A German recycling scheme is proving to be a source…

Development

The Galápagos are often thought of as a unique natural…

Development

China’s ban on plastic imports will displace more than 110…

Cultures

If you think you can escape the ballyhoo of the…

Cultures

As the world’s top footballers battle it out in Russia,…

Cultures

The US meat industry is attempting to officially define ‘meat’…

Explorers

After Michael Pugh quit his job as a law firm partner…

Cultures

As the world prepares for the next FIFA tournament in…

Development

Road collisions remain a leading cause of deaths and injuries…

I’m a Geographer

Lynne Corner is director of VOICE – Valuing Our Intellectual Capital and…

Explorers

The biological wonders of Mozambique’s mountains have only recently been…

I’m a Geographer

Lloyd Figgins is founder of LFL Global Risk Mitigation consultancy,…

Development

From plastic-eating enzymes and oil-sucking polymers to ‘deep learning’ robots…

Explorers

Children on the summit of Aconcagua are a rare sight.…

Explorers

A pioneering expedition in 2019 will search for the lost…