Which countries in the world consume the most alcohol?

·3-min read
Europeans are the world's heaviest drinkers. (Getty)
Europeans are the world's heaviest drinkers. (Getty)

Most nations in the world would be likely to view it as a good thing if young people were turning away from alcohol, but in Japan, the government has launched a drive to encourage those in their 20s and 30s to have a drink.

The unusual strategy comes after many people in Japan stopped drinking during the COVID-19 lockdowns, leading to a drop in tax revenue for the government.

In 2020 the government saw their income from taxes on alcohol plummet, with revenue from beer sales down 20%.

Consumption of alcohol in Japan has fallen by 25% in the last quarter-century, but is still slightly above the global average.

Read more: Almost a third of pub visits alcohol-free as drinkers moderate, research finds

Small Bar counter at Shinjuku TOKYO
The consumption of Japanese wine, sake, has fallen ins recent years. (Getty)

According to the most recent World Bank from 2018, people in Japan consumed the equivalent of 7.9 litres of pure alcohol per capita in a year, compared to the global average of 6.2 litres.

In the UK, the average person consumes 11.4 litres a year.

The measurement is based on pure alcohol consumed, rather than volume of all alcoholic drinks.

For example, an average bottle of wine is around 12% alcohol per litre, which means it contains 0.12 litres of pure alcohol.

The global average of 6.2 litres of pure alcohol would mean a person is drinking around 53 bottles of wine a year.

Which countries consume the most alcohol per head?

There are large geographical differences in where drinks the most alcohol.

Alcohol consumption in Muslim countries across North Africa and the Middle East is particularly low - in many countries, close to zero.

Europe is the region that has the highest average alcohol consumption with Czechia having the highest at 14.4 litres per person per year.

The Indian Ocean nation of Seychelles has the highest in the world at 20.5 litres, significantly higher than second place Uganda at 15.1 litres.

Read more: UK alcohol deaths hit new high after record increase during pandemic


Many European nations feature in the top 10 alongside Czechia, with Lithuania, Luxembourg, Germany, Latvia and Spain all making the list.

The UK is 21st on the list with similar figures to Switzerland and Hungary.

The UK comes much lower on the list when it comes to 'binge drinking' sessions, defined as consuming 6 or more standard drinks in one session, or 60ml, at least once in the past 30 days.

The list is markedly different to the simple amount of alcohol consumed over a year, with many African nations dominating the top 10.

The highest was Equatorial Guinea with 88% of alcohol drinkers saying they had drunk heavily in the past month.

In the UK only 40% of those who said they drank alcohol said they had drunk heavily in the past 30 days.

The number of adults who drink alcohol is highest in Europe, with more than 70% of adults saying they had at least one alcoholic drink the past year.

In the UK it is 73%, compared with Japan's 57%.