Netherlands has one of the lowest rates of alcohol consumption in Europe

16 May 2014, by
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A new report shows that while the region of Europe has the highest average rate of alcohol consumption in the world, the Netherlands is far from the top of European countries.

In fact, according to the World Health Organisation’s annual report into alcohol consumption, Dutch people ranked in the bottom of the list with their drinking, consuming an average of 9,9 litres of pure alcohol yearly. The European average is 10,9 litres a year.

The Dutch figure is well below the biggest drinkers on the continent: in Lithuania, people consume an average of 15,4 litres of pure alcohol a year, followed closely by Romanians with 14,4.

The Netherlands is, however, not the most abstemious European nation. That would be Italy, where people consume only 6,7 litres a year. Second lowest is Iceland, where the inhabitants restrict themselves to 7,1.

Types of alcohol consumed

The most popular alcoholic drink in the Netherlands is beer, which accounts for nearly half of all alcohol consumed. Next is wine with 36 per cent and spirits are third with 17 per cent.

Similar breakdowns were found in Belgium and Germany, although the rates of consumption there are higher (11,0 and 11,8 respectively).

Other countries showed a clear preference for wine, however, including France, Italy and Portugal. These are also countries where alcohol consumption has been dropping rapidly over the last 50 years.

In France for example, in 1960 people consumed more than 25 litres of pure alcohol a year, 20 litres of which were wine. Now, France’s consumption rate is 12,2, with wine accounting for around half.

Alcohol consumption worldwide

Europeans on average drink a lot compared to the rest of the world. In the Americas, average consumption is 8,4 litres, while in Africa it is 6,0 a year and in the Western Pacific region it is 6,8.

Alcohol consumption in the Netherlands

Consumption is lowest in the Eastern Mediterranean region, with average consumption only 0,7 litres a year. It is also very low in the Southeast Asian region at 3,5 litres, although that figure has risen by half a litre in the last 10 years.

Rates in western countries like USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand were similar to the European average.

Harmful use of alcohol

The World Health Organisation’s report defines alcohol as "psychoactive substance with dependence-producing properties" and says the harmful use of alcohol ranks among the top five risk factors for disease, disability and death throughout the world.

It is a causal factor in more than 200 disease and injury conditions and is associated with a risk of developing such health problems as alcohol dependence, liver cirrhosis, cancers and injuries.

According to the report, the net effect of harmful use of alcohol is approximately 3,3 million deaths each year, even when the beneficial impact of low-risk patterns of alcohol use on some diseases is taken into account. This means the harmful use of alcohol accounts for 5,9 per cent of all deaths worldwide.

For more detailed information, read the report.

Source: WHO

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Alexandra Gowling

Alexandra is an Australian citizen and an experienced expat, having spent (quite a bit of) time in A...

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