Britons are heavier drinkers than most of the world, report reveals

Britons are heavier drinkers than most of the world: UK adults down almost one litre of alcohol more each year than Americans

  • Figures showed US citizens drink exactly the average amount of alcohol
  • Britons had 800ml more, putting them among the heaviest drinkers
  • A report revealed Lithuanians drink the most, while Indonesians have the least 

People in the UK drink 800ml 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 800ml more than average for comparable countries – 8.9l – which people in the US are on par with, and therefore one of the highest rates in the world.

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.

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

The figures were revealed in a report named Health at a Glance 2019 and 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 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 headed 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.

‘It accounted for an estimated 7 per cent of male and 2 per cent of female deaths worldwide in 2016.

‘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 showed interesting relationships between how much different countries drank and how likely people 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.


Source: OECD 


Source: OECD 

The results come after a report by the World Health Organization in September also found Lithuania to be the heaviest drinking country in Europe, although it ranked other countries differently – in the OECD report Austria and France came second and third

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. 

Responding to the findings, John Timothy, chief executive of the alcohol industry representative Portman Group said: ‘The report highlights a 12 per cent fall in UK alcohol consumption since 2007 taking it down to levels that are close to the OECD average and far below many neighbouring countries. 

‘The industry continues to encourage people to drink responsibly and supports targeted and tailored interventions for the minority who drink alcohol at the most harmful levels.’ 


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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