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WHO: Czechs second in world in alcohol per capita


Czechs are leaders not only in beer consumption but also in overall drinking, with only Moldovans putting away more pure alcohol

Some 40,000 visitors tried Budvar at Shanghai’s Expo 2010 foto: Česká pozice

The Czech Republic won some dubious recognition for the World Health Organization (WHO). A new report shows that the country has the second-highest per-capita consumption of alcohol in the world, behind Moldova.

The WHO report, which was issued this month but is based on 2005 figures, found that the worldwide average was equivalent to 6.13 liters of pure alcohol per person aged 15 years or more. Europe as region had a higher average, some 12.2 liters, while the Czech Republic topped that with 16.45 liters and Moldova beat all at 18.22 liters. Hungary came in third and Russia was fourth.

The Czech Republic has long been regarded as the global leader in beer consumption, and that was confirmed out by the WHO report. Some 57 percent of the amount of pure alcohol consumed in the Czech Republic comes from beer, while spirits make 24 percent, wine made from grapes makes 16 percent and 3 percent comes from other types of beverages such as fruit wine and rice wine. From beer, Czechs get close to nine liters of pure alcohol per year. Most typical types of beer have an alcohol content of 4 to 6 percent.

Alcohol consumption in the Czech Republic (WHO figures)

Not all countries saw the same breakdown. Moldova was more evenly divided with 36 percent for wine, 33 percent for spirits and 31 percent for beer. The Russian Federation — long regarded at the world’s vodka capital — saw 63 percent from spirits, 33 percent for beer, 3 percent for other beverages and just 1 percent for wine.

Not all stereotypes were confirmed by the WHO report. Italy, for example, did see 73 percent of its alcohol consumption come from wine, but at 10.7 liters per capita it was well below the European average — not one of the leaders.

The WHO report did not make light of the figures. “Alcohol consumption is the world’s third-largest risk factor for disease and disability; in middle-income countries, it is the greatest risk. Alcohol is a causal factor in 60 types of diseases and injuries and a component cause in 200 others,” the report stated. “Almost 4 percent of all deaths worldwide are attributed to alcohol, greater than deaths caused by HIV/AIDS, violence or tuberculosis. Alcohol is also associated with many serious social issues, including violence, child neglect and abuse, and absenteeism in the workplace.”‘Every fifth death is due to harmful drinking in the Commonwealth of Independent States.’

Europe was singled out as a region for its high alcohol consumtion rate.  “The world’s highest alcohol consumption levels are found in the developed world, including Western and Eastern Europe. … Western European countries have some of the highest consumption rates, but their net alcohol-attributable mortality rates are relatively low, though their alcohol-related disease burden may be high,” the report said.

“Many Eastern European countries have the highest consumption, risky patterns of drinking and, accordingly, high levels of alcohol-related deaths and disabilities. Every fifth death is due to harmful drinking in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS),” the report said, adding that Mexico and South America also had high rates of alcohol-related disease and disability. Three out of four countries that have a dedicated line item in their national budgets for alcohol treatment were in Eastern Europe: Croatia, Moldova and Ukraine. The fourth was Israel.

Czech men drink twice as much as women

For the Czech Republic, overall alcohol consumption has been rising slightly since the 1960s, although the years between 2000 and 2005 are classified as “stable.” Men have proven to be much heavier drinkers than women. Some 6.3 percent of women were classified as lifetime abstainers, while only 2.8 percent of men were. Women also had a higher percentages of former drinkers and people who had been abstinent for at least a year.

Among Czech drinkers, men consumed 26.59 liters of pure alcohol per capita per year, and women less than half of that — 12.36 liters. More than one-third of drinking Czech men — 34.4 percent — were classified as “heavy episodic drinkers” consuming at least 60 grams of pure alcohol each week, compared with only 6 percent of drinking women. 

One a scale of one to five, with five being the most risky drinking patterns in terms of causing disease, Czechs scored a three. Liver cirrhosis was responsible for deaths in 26.6 men and 9.3 women per 100,000 people in 2005 in the Czech Republic, the WHO report stated. “Most alcohol-related deaths ... result from injuries, cancer, cardiovascular diseases and liver cirrhosis. Globally, 6.2 percent of all male deaths are related to alcohol, compared to 1.1 percent of female deaths,” the report said.

 LitersBeer %Wine %Spirits  %Other %
Top alcohol consuming countries
Czech Republic16.455716243
UK 13.374330216
 Source: WHO, based on liters of pure alcohol