National Drinking Habits

Americans drink less than Europeans and far less than Russians.

The Economist provides this handy dandy map of world alcohol consumption:

Robert Farley, tongue firmly in cheek, calls the United States’ comparative low ranking “a national disgrace.”

It is obvious that our national honor must be restored; we cannot allow an alcohol gap to persist. My question to the resident constitutional scholars is this: Would it be legal for Congress to mandate a minimum level of alcohol consumption for every American, in order to remedy our shame?

Matt Yglesias plays spoilsport:

Given prevailing land use patterns and automobile dependency, I say it’s a good thing Americans don’t drink very much. Indeed, Americans almost certainly drink too much relative to their transportation strategies. I think it’s an underrated problem.

If we’re playing the health game, that’s the least of the issues. Back to The Economist:

The world drank the equivalent of 6.1 litres of pure alcohol per person in 2005, according to a report from the World Health Organisation published on February 11th. The biggest boozers are mostly found in Europe and in the former Soviet states. Moldovans are the most bibulous, getting through 18.2 litres each, nearly 2 litres more than the Czechs in second place. Over 10 litres of a Moldovan’s annual intake is reckoned to be ‘unrecorded’ home-brewed liquor, making it particularly harmful to health. Such moonshine accounts for almost 30% of the world’s drinking. The WHO estimates that alcohol results in 2.5m deaths a year, more than AIDS or tuberculosis. In Russia and its former satellite states one in five male deaths is caused by drink.

Sobering news.

As for me, I more than hold my own, easily consuming more than my 6.1 liter allotment. But I don’t mix it with driving.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. We’re trailing the French? A disgrace

  2. John Hannaford says:

    Good grief! At 18.2 L/annum of pure alcohol, the average Moldovan is going through more than a bottle of 40% booze every week, or just under 20 drinks. It’s like a country sized version of Colorado State.

  3. PD Shaw says:

    Taking this more seriously than it probably is intended; I assume we have three factors at play here:

    1. Genetic-based tolerance for alcohol (highest among Europeans)
    2. Religious Norms (Islam; conservative protestants)
    3. Poverty (though this seems like it might work both ways in different circumstances)

  4. michael reynolds says:

    I go through a bottle of 40% booze every week. I’m doing my part. But my kids are really dragging the household average down.

  5. James Joyner says:


    A bottle a week is all we ask!

    It’s hard for me to measure precisely since I tend to pour most of my booze into decanters, which I refill periodically, and will have some rum, Scotch, gin, and tequila most weeks. And that’s not counting beer and wine; I’m not sure if the map totals include only spirits or any alcoholic beverage.

  6. PD Shaw says:

    “I’m not sure if the map totals include only spirits or any alcoholic beverage.”

    I’d think it would have to convert everything to pure alcohol to have any meaning. This is a neat map on the alcohol belts of Europe:

  7. Steven Plunk says:

    We should all drink more and spice up the banter. If Green can drunk blog we can comment soused as well.

  8. PD Shaw says:

    I’m mainly scratching my head about Canada. I would think without the States’ streak of religious conservatism, it would more resemble Australia or Great Britain in consumption.

  9. PD Shaw says:

    I answered my question:

    Canada 9.8 litres
    Australia 10.0 litres

  10. John Burgess says:

    Clearly, I’m the wuss of the group then. I go through a case of beer in a year’s time, and two bottles of wine. Maybe through in a half-dozen harder drinks. Most of that comes around Christmas and New Years, so perhaps I’m one of the binge drinkers…

  11. matt says:

    Sorry guys I’m dragging the average down by only drinking a couple of bottles of wine a year..

  12. Neil Hudelson says:

    Don’t worry matt and JB, I’m counteracting you nightly.

  13. jpe says:

    re: Yglesias’s comment: drinking was actually a pretty big part of my decision to move to NYC.