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China drinks a surprising amount of alcohol

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Raise a glass to the Chinese, who are quickly rising in the international ranks of imbibing.

Many countries have scaled back on their alcohol intake over the past few decades, as evidenced by the chart above. The graph, which comes from a new study published in The Lancet, shows how much people in France, Italy, Germany, and the United States have eased up on booze since the 1970s. It also depicts the ascent of drinking in Asia, where developing countries are quickly developing a taste for spirits, wine, and other adult beverages.

But those two trends, as it turns out, are actually a bit more significant than they might seem above. The chart doesn't measure how much people who drink in each country drink on average. In a country like China, where more than half of the population abstains from any alcohol consumption (42 percent of men and 71 percent of women as of 2010, according to the World Health Organization) that makes a considerable difference.

After adjusting for all the people who don't drink in certain countries, the picture changes quite a bit. China's per capita alcohol consumption for people who actually drink jumps to more than 15 liters per year. That's more than the amount seen in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, France, and a horde of other countries. Only drinkers in Tajikistan and Russia drink more, per estimates by the World Health Organization.

The rise of drinking in countries like China could be a cause for concern. Alcohol, which contributes to more than 300,000 deaths among males each year in the country, is considered the sixth greatest risk factor for men by the Institute for Health Metric and Evaluation. A national crackdown on corruption in 2013 has put a dent in the sale of wine and spirits, which were reportedly popular choices for illegal gifts. It's unclear how much of a difference the crackdown has made, but the impact is likely sizable. Global cognac sales dropped considerably in the first year of the new effort.