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Drinking Habits

Alcohol Consumption by Country: Which Nations Drink the Most?

Published:
October 31, 2023
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17 min read
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Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
October 31, 2023
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17 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
October 31, 2023
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
October 31, 2023
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Reframe Content Team
October 31, 2023
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17 min read

“It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…!” We’ve probably all heard this phrase before. It’s used to justify drinking at any time of day, given that somewhere in the world, it’s 5:00 pm — the end of the work day for a traditional “nine-to-five” worker.

But do other countries have this same ritual — unwinding with a glass of wine, cold beer, or cocktail at the end of a long day? Just how embedded is alcohol in different cultures worldwide?

In this blog post, we’ll explore the countries that consume the most alcohol, gaining insight into their drinking trends and behaviors. You might be surprised at which countries make the top of the list. Let’s dive in!

Which Country Drinks the Most Alcohol?

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Various factors influence which countries drink more, ranging from societal norms and weather to income and public health policies. According to the CIA World Factbook, the highest levels of alcohol consumption remain prevalent in developed nations.

Here’s a look at the countries that consume the most alcohol per capita:

Slovenia: #10

In 10th place comes Slovenia, a small country in southeastern Europe south of Austria. They consume 11.05 liters of alcohol per capita. 

Slovenia is known to have what’s referred to as a “wet culture,” which means that alcohol use is widely accepted. Similar to the U.S., alcoholic beverages serve as a social bond and are regularly consumed at celebrations and important life events. Alcohol consumption among young people remains high by international standards: 27% of 15-year-olds and 52% of 17-year-olds report having been drunk at least twice in their life. 

In general, Slovenia’s alcohol consumption is between 2 and 2.5 times higher than the world average. Sadly, alcohol is directly associated with two deaths a day in the country. And road accidents caused by drunk drivers claim an average of 75 lives every year. 

Bulgaria: #9

Bulgaria — bordered by Romania to the north, Serbia and North Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, and the Black Sea to the east — comes in 9th place, consuming about 11.18 liters of alcohol per capita.

Bulgaria is known for its rich traditions in wine production, which dates back to ancient times. Its drinking culture is deeply intertwined with its social and celebratory customs, often featuring local wines and rakia, a fruit brandy. Unfortunately, this has also led to high rates of alcohol-related harm, including health issues and social problems.

France: #8

France consumes an average of 11.44 liters of alcohol per year. Interestingly, France consumes more alcohol than any other top country by GDP and also has an above-average life expectancy. Even so, France is also among the countries with the most years of life lost to alcohol. 

Furthermore, a recent report found that a third of French adults have a drinking problem. A separate study noted that people in France drink alcohol on 132 days of the year, well above the global average of 101. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, France also drinks significantly more wine than any other country, and has one of the biggest wine regions in the world. They have the highest number of wine servings per capita — a whopping 370. 

But there’s good news for France. Reports indicate that alcohol use among French adolescents has dropped significantly over the last decade. 

Estonia: #7

Estonia comes in 7th, with about 11.65 liters per capita per year. Located in Northern Europe on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea, Estonia is bordered by Latvia to the south, Russia to the east, and shares maritime borders with Finland to the north, across the Gulf of Finland. Estonia is the northernmost of the three Baltic states, which also include Latvia and Lithuania. It has a diverse landscape that includes a long coastline, numerous lakes, and forested areas, contributing to its unique natural beauty.

This Northern European country, known for its digital innovation and picturesque landscapes, also has a complex relationship with alcohol. Historically, Estonia has a tradition of consuming vodka and other spirits, but recent years have seen a shift towards beer and craft beverages as well.

The Estonian government has been proactive in addressing the high rates of alcohol consumption. In 2018, Estonia implemented a significant increase in alcohol taxes and introduced stricter advertising rules to curb alcohol use. These measures aim to reduce the health impact of drinking, which includes higher risks of liver diseases and alcohol-related accidents.

Despite these efforts, drinking remains a significant part of social life in Estonia. It is common for alcohol to be consumed at social gatherings and celebrations. However, public health campaigns and policy changes continue to emphasize moderation and the potential harms of excessive drinking.

Antigua and Barbuda: #6

In 6th place, Antigua and Barbuda — a country located in the Caribbean Sea — consists of two major islands, Antigua and Barbuda, along with a number of smaller islands. Situated to the east of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and to the north of Guadeloupe, this island nation is part of the Lesser Antilles archipelago. The capital city, St. John's, is situated on Antigua, which is the larger and more populous of the two main islands.

The islands have a festive drinking culture, often linked to tourism and local festivals. Rum is particularly popular, reflecting its historical significance in the Caribbean. However, there is growing awareness and education about the risks associated with excessive drinking.

Austria: #5

Austria stands at number 5 with an average consumption of 11.9 liters per capita. Austrian culture often celebrates beer and wine, which are seen as central to social gatherings and traditional events. Despite this, there is a strong emphasis on moderation, and public health campaigns actively work to reduce the prevalence of alcohol-related problems.

Lithuania: #4

Lithuania — bordered by Latvia to the north, Belarus to the east and south, Poland to the south, and Russia (Kaliningrad Oblast) to the southwest — has an average per capita consumption of 11.93 liters.

Historically, Lithuania has had a strong tradition of home brewing, particularly of beer and mead, the latter being a historic beverage dating back to medieval times. Mead, made from honey, has seen a revival in Lithuania as part of a broader interest in national heritage and traditional crafts.

Drinking is common as a part of Lithuanian celebrations, and remains a staple at weddings, birthdays, and national holidays like Joninės (Midsummer). It is also common to drink in smaller, more intimate gatherings, often accompanied by snacks or traditional Lithuanian dishes like cured meats and cheeses.

While alcohol remains a staple of social life, Lithuania has recognized the problems associated with high levels of alcohol consumption. It has one of the higher rates of alcohol consumption per capita in Europe, which has prompted governmental and societal attempts to curb alcohol use. These include stricter alcohol control policies, such as limiting the hours during which alcohol can be sold, raising taxes on alcoholic products, and banning alcohol advertising. Public health campaigns often focus on the risks associated with drinking, including alcohol dependency and its impact on families.

Top 10 Countries With the Highest Alcohol Consumption per Capita

Czechia: #3

Czechia — a landlocked country in Central Europe, sharing borders with Germany, Poland, Austria, and Slovakia — is third on the list. People there annually consume 12.73 liters of alcohol. 

Czechia is also among the countries with the most years of life lost due to annual alcohol consumption. Furthermore, one study found that the Czech Republic has one of the worst records in Europe for underage drinking, with just over 40% of 15-year-olds admitting they drink alcohol on a regular basis. 

Recent studies show that almost one-tenth of adults in the Czechia — around 900,000 people — drink alcohol every day, and around 1.5 million drink hazardously. 

Czechs in particular are known for their beer consumption. In fact, Czechia has long topped international rankings for beer consumption, guzzling down about 160 liters of it per capita annually. This beats other popular beer-drinking nations, such as Germany, Ireland, and Belgium.

Latvia: #2

Latvia — which is bordered by Estonia to the north, Russia to the east, Belarus to the southeast, and Lithuania to the south — is second on the list, consuming 12.9 liters of alcohol each year. 

Drinking here is often associated with social activities, but the country has recognized the negative impacts of high alcohol consumption, leading to stricter regulations and public awareness campaigns aimed at reducing alcohol abuse.

Cook Islands: #1

And finally, the “winner” — Cook Islands, located in the South Pacific Ocean, northeast of New Zealand and between French Polynesia and American Samoa — consumes a whopping 12.97 liters per year!

This group of islands is an independent nation in free association with New Zealand. The Cook Islands are composed of 15 small islands scattered over a large area of the Pacific, and their total land area is about 240 square kilometers.

Alcohol consumption here is closely linked to social and cultural practices, but like many Pacific nations, there are concerns about the health implications of such high levels of consumption. Efforts to promote responsible drinking are crucial in maintaining the community’s health.

Where Is the United States on the List? 

So, what about the United States? Where does it fall on the list? The U.S. claims the 35th spot, drinking an average of 8.93 liters of alcohol per capita annually.

Interestingly, even though the U.S. has one of the lowest alcohol use rates per capita of first-world countries, we have a higher rate of alcohol abuse than many other countries, including Belgium, Germany, and France. In fact, about 15 million people struggle with alcohol use disorder in the U.S

Why These Numbers Are So Concerning

Alcohol is part of the lifestyle and culture of many countries around the world. In many ways, it’s normalized and widely accepted; sometimes, it’s even encouraged. However, overindulging or regularly consuming alcohol can have serious, long-term consequences for our physical, mental, and emotional health. 

Drinking alcohol puts us at a greater risk for many serious health conditions, including liver disease, heart disease, cancer, and cognitive impairments like dementia and Alzheimer’s. Even small amounts of alcohol here and there can affect our mental health and well-being.

If you’re struggling to manage your alcohol consumption, consider trying Reframe. We’re a neuroscience-backed app that has helped millions of people cut back on their alcohol consumption and develop healthier lifestyles. 

Summary FAQs

1. What countries consume the most alcohol? 

The top 10 countries that consume the most alcohol include Belarus, Lithuania, Grenada, Czech Republic, France, Russia, Ireland, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Germany, Hungary, Portugal, Poland, and Slovenia. 

2. How much alcohol do these countries consume annually? 

Belarus, which ranks first, consumes 14.4 liters of alcohol per capita each year — roughly 48 handles of vodka per person. This is over 1.5 times more than Americans. Slovenia, which ranks 10th, consumes 10.6 liters of alcohol per capita — nearly 4 liters less than Belarus.

3. Where does the U.S. rank among countries? 

The U.S. claims the 25th spot, drinking an average of 8.7 liters of alcohol per capita annually — or 29 handles of vodka consumed per person. However, even though the U.S. has one of the lowest alcohol use rates per capita of first-world countries, we have a higher rate of alcohol abuse than many other countries.

4. Why is heavy alcohol consumption dangerous? 

Overindulging or regularly consuming alcohol can have serious long-term consequences for our physical, mental, and emotional health. It puts us at a greater risk for liver disease, heart disease, cancer, and cognitive impairments like dementia and Alzheimer’s. 

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