Data Reveals World’s Top Drinkers

24 August 2017


Everyone loves a drink. Well, those of us who drink do. However, some of us like one a bit more than others. Do you think you could drink over 15 litres of pure alcohol in a year because apparently some of us can! Stay with us as we delve into the OECD’s online database, this time to look at which countries are the biggest drinkers, and where not to go if you fancy a cold one after work.



Europe Drinks Their Way to the Top

Although many countries, especially in Europe, have seen alcohol consumption decrease over the past few decades, no one seems to have told those in Lithuania, where alcohol consumption has more than tripled in the past 20 years. This brings their total up to a massive 15.2 L per capita of pure alcohol; that’s the equivalent of 535 pints of beer a year and 182 more than the European average.


The European Commission funded a report to investigate Lithuania’s drinking culture and found that the average breakdown between beer, wine and spirits was around 45%, 19% and 36%, respectively, meaning that the average Lithuanian consumes 241 pints of beer, 96 glasses of wine and 391 shots of spirits a year. The report suggested that the reason for such a high alcohol intake across the country was the extremely poor state of mental health in Lithuania, so maybe it’s not the ideal expat destination.


Multiple reasons for the significant reduction in Europe as a whole have been suggested by the World Health Organization, including increases in taxation, limits on marketing and advertising and restrictions on availability. The fact that many of the European economies are moving away from so much agriculture, where lunchtime drinking was common, has also been suggested as a contributing factor.


These changes have even affected France and Italy. The two countries, both famous for their wine and laid-back drinking culture have seen drastic decreases in alcohol consumption rates over the past 40 to 50 years. France, in particular, has seen a huge drop in alcohol consumption from 23.2 L per capita in 1970 when the OECD records begin, to just 11.9 L in 2015. This decline of nearly half represents a reduction in wine consumption of around 377 glasses per person, per year.


Although the consumption of alcohol in Europe as fallen over the past 30 years, the number of deaths attributed to alcohol has in fact increased. This increase, however, can be almost entirely traced back to eastern Europe.



Taking it Easy in Asia

In contrast to Europe, which is undoubtedly the continent which consumes the most alcohol in the world, Asia falls firmly at the opposite end of the spectrum. The average consumption of alcohol from the OECD databank is currently around 4.7 L per capita, less than half of the European average of 9.9 L.



China is an interesting case in of itself, as for a country where more than half of the population don’t drink at all, it consumes around 5.8 L of alcohol per capita each year. This means that the half that does drink, drink about as much as the French. The WHO, however, believe the real figure is much higher, and predict that those who do drink, drink around 15 litres per year, similar to Lithuania. Alcohol consumption in the country has nearly doubled in the past 15 years, to a point never seen before in the country.


If relatively few people drink in China, Indonesia is at a whole other level, with largest Muslim nation in the world historically taking a particularly dim view of alcohol consumption. Although a total ban is not in effect, the government have stopped the sale of alcohol in ‘mini-marts’ and other small shops which reduced sales by 13% in 2015, as well as introducing hefty taxes on drinks. Some in the country worry that further restrictions being suggested by two Muslim parties in parliament could damage tourism in a serious and long-term way, a major source of income for much of the country. However, these are unlikely to be enforced.


Although the general trend over the past few decades has been for reducing alcohol consumption across the globe, some places are noticeably bucking the trend. It’s unlikely that the price and availability of alcohol is going to be a serious contributing factor when searching for you next expat destination, but it should be consideration for those who like a pint on a Friday.



Data on worldwide consumption of alcohol was taken from the OECD world database.
For calculations for equivalent amounts of beer, wine and spirits; one pint of beer is 568 mL at 5% ABV; one glass of wine is 250 mL at 12% ABV; one shot of spirit is 35 mL at 40% ABV.