The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The world’s boozing habits revealed. There are some surprises.

Oktoberfest in Munich, September 18, 2010. (Reuters)
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Editor’s note: This article was updated on May 1 to correct chart 4 below, entitled “Just how much are they drinking” and to remove references in the text to the incorrect numbers. The original chart had the relative rankings for female drinkers wrong. Thanks to a careful reader for bringing this to our attention. By way of context, note that the numbers are “per drinker” figures, reflecting habits only of people who drink in the particular countries.

Does booze play a part in world events? Don’t tell your kids — or your parents — but probably yes. Take Britain, a proud kingdom of saucing. Over the past year, the number of people seriously hurt by violence plunged 12 percent to roughly 235,000 cases. Though the decrease mirrors trends across the Western world, a new study this week said the real reason may be booze. Or the lack of it.

Tough economic times has meant fewer pints. “Binge drinking has become less frequent, and the proportion of youth who don’t drink alcohol at all has risen sharply,” explained lead researcher Jonathan Shepherd. “For people most prone to involvement in violence … falls in disposable income are probably an important factor.”

Findings involving alcohol are one of the few things that are translatable across the world. Alcohol — with the clear exception of some Muslim countries — spans class, culture and profession. But between every country, there are differences. And there are surprises.

1. Which countries overdo it the most?

2. Which nationalities are most likely to endanger their health with drinking?

3. What’s the drink of choice?

4. Which country puts back the most?