Britons are heavier drinkers than most of world, says report

Britons drink almost one litre more pure alcohol each year than Americans, who consume the average amount, a report revealed today.

Statistics released only once every two years show Britons over the age of 15 get through some 9.7litres of pure alcohol each every year.

This is equal to 108 bottles of 12 per cent wine or 342 pints of five per cent strength lager. 

The amount is 800ml of alcohol more than average for comparable countries – 8.9l – which people in the US are on par with.

Lithuania was revealed to be the heaviest drinking developed nation, with people consuming a staggering 12.3l each per year, while Indonesians drank the least.

Alcohol charities told MailOnline that, although drinking isn’t as bad in the UK as in many countries, there are millions of people who risk damaging their health with booze. 

A report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found Americans drink an average amount for developed countries and Lithuania, Austria and France drink the most.

A report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found Americans drink an average amount for developed countries and Lithuania, Austria and France drink the most.

The figures were revealed in the report ‘Health at a Glance 2019’ published today by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The OECD is an international organisation with 36 member states, and studies the economies and populations of developed countries.

Its report, which is based on alcohol sales for 2017, compared how many litres of pure alcohol are drunk by people in 44 countries around the world.

It revealed that after Lithuania, Austria, France, the Czech Republic, Luxembourg and Ireland were the heaviest drinking nations.

While Turkey, Israel, India, Costa Rica, Mexico and Colombia made up the bottom of the table, all drinking fewer than five litres each.

Lower than the UK were the most populated countries in the world – China, India, the US, Brazil and Indonesia – making Britons some of the heaviest drinkers on Earth. 

Pure alcohol is measured as one millilitre for every percentage of the drink’s strength if there is 100ml of it.

A litre of 37.5 per cent vodka, for example, contains 375ml of pure alcohol. While a pint of five per cent strength lager would contain 28.4ml of pure alcohol.

In their report the OECD researchers wrote: ‘Alcohol use is a leading cause of death and disability worldwide, particularly in those of working age. 

‘High alcohol intake is a major risk factor for heart diseases and stroke, liver cirrhosis and certain cancers, but even low and moderate alcohol consumption increases the long-term risk of these diseases.

‘Alcohol also contributes to more accidents and injuries, violence, homicide, suicide and mental health disorders than any other psychoactive substance, particularly among young people.’

The figures in the report also showed interesting relationships between how much different countries drank and how likely their citizens were to be alcoholics.

In the UK, for example, alcohol consumption was higher than average but the proportion of drinkers classed as ‘dependent’ was among the lowest.

People in the US drink exactly the average amount of alcohol, but those in the UK consume 800ml more each year, according to the research (stock image)

People in the US drink exactly the average amount of alcohol, but those in the UK consume 800ml more each year, according to the research (stock image)


  1. Indonesia (0.3litres of pure alcohol per person per year) 
  2. Turkey (1.4)
  3. Israel (2.6)
  4. India (3)
  5. Costa Rica (3.8)
  6. Mexico (4.4)
  7. Colombia (4.5)
  8. China (5.7)
  9. Norway (6)
  10. Brazil (6.3)

Source: OECD 

A similar theme is noticeable in France, which ranked as the third heaviest drinking country but had fewer than the average number of dependents.

Austria and Eastern European countries including Latvia, Hungary and Russia, however, had both high levels of drinking and comparatively large numbers of alcoholics. 

CEO of Drinkaware Elaine Hindal told MailOnline: ‘While most adults in the UK drink within the low-risk guidelines (14 units a week) and tee-totalism is increasing, one in four of us drink at an increasing risk level.

‘And almost one in seven are defined as high risk and possibly dependent.

‘This means that literally millions of UK drinkers are at risk of damaging their health in the long-term unless they cut down.’

Robin Pollard, policy researcher for drug and alcohol charity Addaction, added: ‘Every year there are more than a million alcohol related hospital admissions in England. It’s an incredibly common problem but it’s still not an easy thing to talk about.

‘Funding for alcohol services has reduced significantly in recent years, meanwhile alcohol has never been cheaper, costing 60 per cent less than in 1980.

‘We know that 4 per cent of drinkers consume one third of the alcohol sold. This means a lot of the industry’s profits come from people who drink in a way that hurts them. 

‘Minimum Unit Pricing reduces the availability of high strength, low-cost drinks. Scotland and Ireland have led the way here and England needs to catch up.’ 

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One screening tool used widely by medical professionals is the AUDIT (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Tests). Developed in collaboration with the World Health Organisation, the 10-question test is considered to be the gold standard in helping to determine if someone has alcohol abuse problems.

The test has been reproduced here with permission from the WHO.

To complete it, answer each question and note down the corresponding score.


0-7: You are within the sensible drinking range and have a low risk of alcohol-related problems.

Over 8: Indicate harmful or hazardous drinking.

8-15: Medium level of risk. Drinking at your current level puts you at risk of developing problems with your health and life in general, such as work and relationships. Consider cutting down (see below for tips).

16-19: Higher risk of complications from alcohol. Cutting back on your own may be difficult at this level, as you may be dependent, so you may need professional help from your GP and/or a counsellor.

20 and over: Possible dependence. Your drinking is already causing you problems, and you could very well be dependent. You should definitely consider stopping gradually or at least reduce your drinking. You should seek professional help to ascertain the level of your dependence and the safest way to withdraw from alcohol.

Severe dependence may need medically assisted withdrawal, or detox, in a hospital or a specialist clinic. This is due to the likelihood of severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms in the first 48 hours needing specialist treatment.



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