World/Global Alcohol/Drink Consumption 2010

Europeans are the world's top consumers of alcohol in the world.

Heavy drinking is part of the culture of Northern Europeans in particular.

In the 25-member EU (excluding new additions Romania and Bulgaria), 90 percent of 15- and 16-year-old students have consumed alcohol at some point in their lives, a rate far higher than in the United States, according to the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs. On average, they begin to drink at 12˝ and get drunk for the first time at 14. Among 15-year-old Danes, 50 percent of the boys and 37 percent of the girls drink every week, according to a study by the University of Copenhagen.

In countries such as Ireland, the UK and Denmark, what is termed "binge" drinking is common. This refers to reserving drinking alcohol for a few days a week - usually from Thursday and then consuming 4 or more liters of beer or 7 pints of beer in an evening. The intention of some younger drinkers is actually to get drunk/merry when heading out on an evening to drink. 

Ireland's per capita litre consumption increased from 7.0 in 1970 to 14.5 in 2001 according to the World Health Organization and 13.5 in 2004. This compares with 20.4 in France in 1970 down to 13.0 in 2004.

A report published on Nov 01, 2007, showed that alcohol consumption in the Irish population had increased by 17% over the previous 11 years, from 11.5 litres per adult in 1995 to 13.4 litres in 2006. This rise in consumption  led to increases in alcohol-related harm and disease, and resulted in more than 1,775 deaths. This, in turn, created escalating pressures on our health and hospital services. These figures were reported in a comprehensive new overview of the health-related consequences of problem alcohol use published today by the Health Research Board (HRB).

The report provided strong evidence of the impact of alcohol-related illness on hospital services, according to Dr Deirdre Mongan, Research Officer at the HRB and lead author of the report. The number of people discharged from hospital with alcohol-related problems or injuries increased by almost 90% in the ten years between 1995 and 2004. In 2004, people with alcohol-related illness used 117,373 bed days in hospital – more than double the figure of 55,805 bed days in 1995.

Alcohol consumption, Litres per capita (15+)        
1960 1970   1990 2000 2008   2009
OECD countries                
Australia 9.4 11.6   10.5 9.8      
Austria 9.4 14.2   14.9 13.7 12.5    
Belgium 8.9 11.7   12.1 10.3      
Canada 7.0 8.8 b 7.4 7.6 8.2   8.2
Czech Republic       11.3 11.8 12.1    
Denmark 5.5 8.6   11.7 13.1 10.9    
Estonia           14.0    
Finland 2.7 5.8   9.5 8.6 10.3    
France   20.4   16.0 14.0      
Germany 7.5 13.4   13.8 10.5 9.9    
Greece       10.6 9.5      
Hungary 8.2 11.5   13.9 12.0      
Iceland   3.8 b 5.2 6.1 7.3    
Ireland 4.9 7.0   11.2 14.2 12.4    
Italy 16.6 17.8   11.0 9.0      
Japan   6.1 b 9.2 8.6 7.5    
Korea       9.1 8.9 8.1    
Luxembourg 13.1 12.8   14.8 15.4      
Mexico       4.9 4.8 5.9 b  
Netherlands 3.7 7.8   9.9 10.1      
New Zealand 5.3 9.8   10.1 8.9 9.5   9.3
Norway 3.4 4.7   5.0 5.7 6.8    
Poland       8.3 8.4 10.8    
Portugal       16.1 12.9      
Slovak Republic 6.9 12.8   13.4 8.9 9.6    
Slovenia           10.9    
Spain   16.1   13.5 11.5      
Sweden 4.8 7.2   6.4 6.2 6.9   7.4
Switzerland 12.1 14.2   12.9 11.2 10.2    
Turkey 0.9 1.1   1.4 1.5 1.4    
United Kingdom   7.1   9.8 10.4 10.8    
United States 7.8 9.5   9.2 8.2      

Download Excel file - - OECD Health Data 2010

In Luxembourg, national sales do not accurately reflect consumption by residents, due to significant levels of consumption by tourists and cross border traffic of alcoholic beverages. In addition many workers in the Duchy live beyond its borders.


Irish Alcohol Consumption surged 17% since 1995; Alcohol-related hospital discharges jump 90%


Ireland heads alcohol binge drinking ranking in Europe


Alcohol Taxation: European Commission proposes increases of minimum rates - Ireland not affected as its existing drink taxes are amongst Europe's highest

Data issued by the Irish Brewers Association in November 2004, has lower consumption per capita and a decline in 2003. However, Ireland remains at the top of the alcohol rankings.

Source: Irish Brewers Association

Beer on Draught Dominant in Ireland

Source: Irish Brewers Association

Irish top alcohol spending per capita in European Union: Three times more than the Danes who are in second place

While the Irish undoubtedly drink like fish (the writer also likes alcohol), Danny McCoy the director of policy at Ibec, the employers' lobbying organisation, takes issue with the actual expenditure comparisons.

McCoy wrote in The Irish Times that that spending on alcohol is recorded differently across the EU in contrast to Ireland. When comparisons of alcohol consumption are made, distinction is normally made between spending on alcohol in pubs on the one hand and in off-licences on the other. In most European countries only spending in off-licences is attributed to the category "alcohol" in national statistics, whereas money spent in pubs and restaurants is included in categories such as "recreation" or "entertainment".

The Irish numbers, in contrast, include spending in off-licences and pub sales combined. A recent Drinks Industry Group of Ireland report estimated that 70 per cent of alcohol in Ireland is bought in pubs and restaurants. This is a substantially higher proportion than our European counterparts, largely due to the greater propensity for Irish people to drink in pubs and restaurants rather than at home. The inclusion of both categories therefore greatly inflates alcohol expenditure levels in Ireland in comparison with other EU countries. While there is a continuing trend towards more off-licence sales in Ireland, it is the classification distinction that significantly explains the exaggerated comparisons of Irish alcohol expenditure with other countries.

In the context of a comprehensive measurement of alcohol spending, it could be argued that the Irish proportion of expenditure on alcohol is not overestimated; rather other countries' expenditure ratios are underestimated. The recent national accounts from the Central Statistics Office show that expenditure on alcohol in Ireland is 8.6 per cent of total personal expenditure, which has declined from 10.8 per cent in the mid-1990s. The recent EU-funded report claims that Ireland spends three times more than any other country on alcohol. However, using directly comparable data, a far different story is told.

Between 1995 and 2004, households in Ireland spent an average of 2.6 per cent of their personal expenditure on alcoholic beverages - when measured as off-licence consumption. In Greece the proportion is smaller, at 0.9 per cent, but certainly not 10 times smaller as widely reported. Ireland was surpassed by Finland, Luxembourg and the Czech Republic, which had averages of 3.8 per cent, 3 per cent and 5.2 per cent respectively. When on-licence trade is factored back in, Ireland would emerge towards the top of the expenditure league, but by no means anywhere near the exaggerated multiples normally reported.

Expenditure figures are a combination of the actual quantity of alcohol consumed and its price. The fact that taxes on alcohol are higher in Ireland than in most EU member states inflates the expenditure levels without necessarily implying greater consumption levels. Per-capita alcohol consumption levels in Ireland are high by international standards, but not disproportionately so. The trend over the last decade was for actual alcohol consumed to rise as income levels increased significantly, but at the same time the proportion of expenditure on alcohol declined. A number of factors led to the increase in alcohol consumed, particularly the huge growth in the numbers of people in the 18-25 age group and increased inward migration of adults.

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