Is it really a surprise that the World Health Organization and the European Commission found that Europeans drink more than anyone else in the world? No, but the numbers, as reported by Reuters, are still pretty intriguing: The consumption of alcohol in the European Union is double the world average; its citizens on average drink the equivalent of 12.5 liters of pure alcohol per year, almost three glasses of wine per day.
Broken down by region, the heaviest drinkers were found in countries in central Eastern and Eastern Europe (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia). Those countries’ citizens consumed 14.5 liters of pure alcohol per year compared with 12.4 liters in central Western and Western Europe (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom).
The southern European countries (Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Spain) have what the WHO report calls a “Mediterranean” drinking pattern, which just means that they drink a lot of wine with meals, but are usually not binge drinkers — unlike, for example, the Nordic countries, which scored a 2.8 out of 5 on the hazardous drinking scale.
One might initially think that these numbers are understandable considering how much drinking — at several different points in the day in some places — is part of many European cultures, and also how tasty most of the libations are over there. But Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO’s European director said to Reuters that the honor was “dubious,” and pointed out that heavy drinking in European countries has had a negative effect on public health and society.