Last year, the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development surveyed per capita consumption of alcohol across the world and ranked the top fifteen. They ranked them a bit differently than most of these surveys do. They looked at the raw amount of alcohol consumed each year per person rather than the number of servings. This apparently had the effect of equalizing the results across beer, wine and spirits since they all have very different amounts of alcohol.
Below is a table of the results:
|Nation||Liters Per Capita Annual Pure Alcohol Consumption||Liters Per Capita Beer Consumption||Legal Drinking Age|
|1. Luxembourg||15.5||84.4||16 (beer)
|2. France||14.2||35.5||16 (beer)
|4. Hungary||12||75.3||18 (to purchase—none for consumption)|
|5. Czech Republic
|6. Spain||11.5||83.8||16 (drinking)
|7. Denmark||11.5||89.9||18 (bars only; otherwise no limit)|
|9. Switzerland||11.2||57.3||16 (beer)
|10. Austria||11.1||108.3||16 (beer)
|11. Germany||10.5||116.8||14 (beer)
|12. United Kingdom||10.4||99||18 (for purchase)|
|14. Netherlands||10.1||79||16 (beer)
As a result of the methodology, the top fourteen are all European countries and only the last nation lies outside of the EU. Previous studies, along with this new one, seem to point to social, political and cultural factors — along with tax structures — to account for this seeming anomaly. The new data, which includes 2006, is available from the OECD for a pretty hefty amount — much more than my budget will allow — but there is data from previous years available if you dig around. And while the numbers have changed over the decades, from year to year they change only slightly so we can see where other countries below the top fifteen probably fall in the rankings. Looking at 2003, the last year I could find with complete statistics, the top 15 are almost exactly the same (only numbers 14 and 15 are reversed). So below those, here are some of the likely remaining rankings (based on 2003 data).
- New Zealand
- United States
- Slovak Republic
The U.S. barely cracks the top twenty and Canada comes in at Number 22. You can also see how beer consumption is very different from overall alcohol. The top ten for beer are:
- Czech Republic (156.9)
- Ireland (131.1)
- Germany (116.8)
- Australia (109.9)
- Austria (108.3)
- United Kingdom (99)
- Belgium (93)
- Denmark (89.9)
- Luxembourg (84.4)
- Spain (83.8)
There is a note, however, in the raw data excel spreadsheet indicating that Luxembourg’s data does not “accurately reflect consumption by residents, due to significant levels of consumption by tourists and cross border traffic of alcoholic beverages.” That seems to suggest that data for Luxembourg is overstated and that it may not be as high as expressed in this study. So if we throw them out of the beer consumption list, the Netherlands slide into the number ten spot with liters per capita of 79.
So, while there’s nothing terribly surprising here, I thought it was an interesting peek at who’s drinking what and how much around the world.