- Alcohol, once a rite of passage, is now being shunned by younger generations and health-minded individuals around the world.
- While many countries are consuming less alcohol, some surprising countries are making up for that deficit by drinking more.
Whether it’s a glass of wine with dinner or a night out with friends, alcohol is a staple of social and cultural events around the world. In recent years, however, there have been shifts in alcohol consumption rates, with some countries experiencing declining trends.
While some countries are cutting back, others are drinking more than ever. Let’s look at current consumption rates around the world and find out whether alcohol use is declining.
A Sobering Trend
In January, Canada released new alcohol guidelines that drastically reduced the number of beverages it deemed safe to drink. Whereas previous guidelines suggested a weekly maximum of 15 beverages for men and ten drinks for women, The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) recommends consuming no more than two alcoholic drinks per week.
The CCSA’s study has prompted a wider conversation about whether alcohol is more dangerous than we think. As a result, many drinkers in the U.S. are also thinking twice about their consumption. So, where is alcohol losing its appeal?
Our neighbor to the north had already been curbing its consumption rate prior to the release of these guidelines. Between 2017 and 2019, heavy drinking rates dropped from 19.5 percent to 18.3 percent. Canada’s aging population, combined with its alcohol-averse younger generation, signals that this trend will continue.
The new CCSA recommendations are opening a dialogue around the country’s love of beer, wine, and spirits. And while many Canadians balked at the guideline changes, its findings on the dangers of alcohol will likely compel more people to curb their intake.
The U.S. is also drinking less. On average, Americans consumed 3.6 alcoholic beverages in 2021, which was down from 4.8 beverages in 2009. In addition, the percentage of Americans who drink fell from 65 percent in 2019 to 60 percent by 2021. That’s a significant shift within just a few years.
Young people are the major demographic changing these stats. A nationwide survey found that alcohol abstinence increased consistently between 2002 and 2018. This trend was tied to marijuana use, which also increased throughout this period.
Alcohol also appears to be losing some of its luster among young adults in the U.K. Whereas 58 percent of adults (aged 55 to 74) were likely to drink alcohol at least once per week, only 30 percent of young adults (aged 16 to 24) were likely to indulge.
Between 2004 and 2016, alcohol consumption in the U.K. fell by 16 percent across all demographics. This trend has been attributed to a number of factors, including increased health awareness and changing cultural attitudes towards alcohol. As the population continues to age, these rates will likely drop further.
Australia and New Zealand
Australia has a reputation for being particularly boozy, but alcohol’s dominance is also slipping in the land down under. In 2017, consumption rates fell to their lowest since 1961. And while those numbers briefly shot up during the lockdowns in 2021, Australians have since responded with another drop of 1.8 percent.
Young Australians are largely behind these declining rates, as teens are drinking less now than they have since the early 1980s. Likewise, New Zealand curbed its binge drinking rates by over 50 percent between 2001 and 2012, and those numbers continue to fall today.
Which Countries Are Drinking More?
While drinking rates are falling in most high-income European countries, other countries are consuming more alcohol than ever before. India, for example, is expected to consume approximately 6.21 billion liters of alcohol by 2024, which is a big jump from five billion liters consumed in 2020.
China’s drinking is also on the rise. In fact, the country’s taste for alcohol has exploded – up approximately 70% over the past 30 years! The rapid economic development and urbanization of India and China are behind these elevated drinking levels.
As these countries get richer, the rise in disposable income is creating a culture around alcohol that is familiar to American onlookers. These two nations are projected to trade places by 2030, when Chinese adults will drink more than ten liters on average, while American consumption slips to 9.5 liters.
The Sober Curious Movement
Despite Western nations beginning to curb their intake, other countries are imbibing more regularly. This trade-off means that alcohol remains as popular as ever, globally. Regardless, the trend of declining alcohol consumption in certain countries is a positive development.
All over the world, the “sober curious” movement is helping people make better decisions about their health and productivity. The decision to abstain from alcohol is no longer as stigmatized as it was in previous decades, enabling people to reconsider their relationship with alcohol. As a result, the populations of these countries are healthier and at less risk of addiction and illness.