A stereotype-busting map of the countries where children are most likely to get drunk

April 18, 2013

Click to enlarge. Data source: UNICEF

If you harbored stereotypes that parents in wine-loving cultures Italy and Spain allowed kids to quash a couple glasses with dinner, that the Irish start drinking young, that Canadians are better behaved than Americans or that those well-behaved Finns and Danes would never allow children to get drunk, then a recent study by the United Nation's Children Fund (UNICEF) might surprise you.

The massive study on the well-being of children in 29 developed, Western countries looked at, among many other things, the frequency with which children ages 11, 13 and 15 reported they "had been drunk at least twice" in their short lifetimes. The results, which are mapped out above and charted below, include some interesting details.

American kids, who otherwise appeared to under-perform their European peers in the study, are the least likely to have gotten drunk. Maybe that lends a bit of credence to the U.S.'s relatively late and well-enforced drinking age, unusual in the Western world. They're joined by the tee-totaling kids of Iceland, the Netherlands and, believe it or not, Italy.

Despite the strong wine cultures in Italy, France and Spain – or maybe because of them, given the degree to which it cultivates drinking "to enjoy," as I've heard many French say – children in those countries are among the least likely to get drunk.

Kids appear to be much more likely to get drunk in former Soviet states, particularly the Baltic states, and in Finland, the latter of which might be a surprise given that its kids otherwise score among the highest well-being in the Western world. That may be a partial legacy of Soviet bloc drinking culture, which have the highest alcohol consumption rates in the world and tend to be plagued by alcoholism.

Here's a chart of the findings:


Data source: UNICEF
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Caitlin Dewey · April 18, 2013