9 Intriguing Facts About Global Booze Consumption

The World Health Organisation’s report into global alcohol consumption habits is huge and detailed. Short version: this little planet loves booze.

If you can say one thing about humankind it’s this: we like a drink.

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A World Health Organisation report this week on drinking habits concludes that average human consumed 6.2 litres of pure alcohol a year – which is the equivalant of 620 units, or 221 pints of 5% ABV beer.

The data comes from WHO offices around the world, which in 2012 conducted a global online survey completed by health officials in 178 member states.

1. In terms of alcohol consumed per person, Andorra, Hungary and Russia are leading the pack – while the UK is way down the list.

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2. In terms of total booze consumption, we miss out on the top 10 but the UK is top of the binge drinking league.

More than 30% of people in the UK enjoy the occasional bout of “heavy episodic drinking”, defined as drinking more than 60 grams of pure alcohol in one session, putting us up there with binge drinking heavyweights France, Finland, Namibia and Venezuela.

We’re also top of the league for heavy episodic drinking among 15- to 19-year-olds.

3. Russia and Eastern Europe take the prize for the global regions with the biggest booze habit, with more than 12.5 litres of pure alcohol consumed per person.

World Health Organisation / who.int

Russians consume an average of 16.1 litres of pure alcohol a year.

Northern Africa, the Middle East and South-East Asia are not big drinkers – which is unsurprsing for regions with many Muslim countries.

4. The world’s favourite tipple is sprits, followed by beer and then wine.

On that chart: AFR - Africa, AMR - Americas, EMR - Eastern Mediterranean, EUR - Europe, SEAR - South-East Asia, WPR - Western Pacific.

5. Almost half the entire world’s adult population has never drunk alcohol.

The WHO says 48% of people are “lifetime abstainers”, while a further 13.7% have drunk alcohol at least once but not in the last 12 months. Again, North Africa, the Middle East, the Indian sub-continent and South-East Asia are where you’ll find the most teetotalers.

6. British drinkers love beer – but wine has gone from being consumed by hardly anyone in the 1960s to 34% of the country’s annual booze intake.

7. Meanwhile, the USA loves beer.

8. Whereas in places such as North Korea – where people drink 3.7 litres of alcohol a year – it’s all about spirits.

9. There is a serious message in the report, however: booze is a huge problem for the developing world.

It says that booze accounts for 3.3 million deaths a year across the world – that’s 5.9% of all deaths. More than 200 health conditions are linked to drinking.

And despite consumption being higher among rich countries, the WHO says this is a problem that “continues to be a factor that has to be addressed to ensure sustained social and economic development throughout the world”.

The WHO is calling for a 10% reduction in harmful alcohol abuse by 2025 and calls for alcohol intervention to be a higher priority for governments.

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Patrick Smith is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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