It’s a familiar story. You’re at your doctor for your yearly physical, and the dreaded question crops up: “How much alcohol do you consume in a week?” You quickly run through a tally of how many drinks you had the week prior. A glass of wine with dinner after work, a cocktail or two with a friend over the weekend, and that must be it, right? So you tell your doctor, “Just a few!”
Data from American Addiction Centers reveals that one in five Americans admit to lying to their doctor about how much alcohol they consume, and half of American drinkers would disregard their doctor’s advice to cut down. Excessive alcohol use — defined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as binge drinking, heavy drinking, and any alcohol use under 21 — increases your risk of injuries, chronic diseases like liver and heart disease, and cancer. The CDC recently identified that 39 million American adults drink more than the recommended amount.
5 percent ABV beer: 12 ounces
7 percent ABV malt liquor: 8 ounces
12 percent ABV wine: 5 ounces
40 percent ABV spirit: 1.5 ounces
The United States is not the only country facing these difficulties. Take France, for example, where nearly one in four people drink more alcohol than recommended. Or the Brits, who, according to the 2019 Global Drug Survey, get drunk more times per year than people from any other country. In an effort to curb the habits of their citizens, a number of countries have introduced alcohol consumption guidelines — a means of explaining how much one can drink in any given time frame before their drinking becomes a concern.
Here at VinePair, we were interested in exploring just how much our own U.S. government says we should drink, and even more interested in learning how that number compares to other countries’ near and far. To do so, we consulted data from dozens of national health websites from select countries from regions around the globe and were occasionally stunned at how little — or how much — certain governments deemed appropriate to consume over the course of a day. In some cases, like Canada’s allotment of one extra drink on special occasions, we were even amused.
In order to make the data a bit easier to digest, we pared down each country’s daily allotted drinks to reflect how much citizens of legal drinking age are recommended to consume in one day. Important to note that while these numbers reflect daily consumption guidelines, many countries have additional recommendations regarding how much should be consumed in one week and how many times per week drinking should occur.
Curious to know how much alcohol your government says you should actually be drinking? Read on to see how your country compares to those around the globe.
*Editor’s note: Standard drink sizes were converted to the imperial system to reflect the U.S. standard size.
Government Guidelines by Country
Argentina: Men can have up to two drinks per day; women are allotted one drink per day.
Australia: Healthy Australian men and women should drink no more than 10 standard drinks in a week and no more than four standard drinks on any one day.
Belgium: If alcohol is consumed at all, men should not drink more than four standard drinks; women should have no more than two drinks per day.
Canada: Women should limit alcohol to no more than two standard drinks per day, 10 standard drinks per week, and three standard drinks on special occasions. Men should limit intake to no more than three standard drinks per day, 15 per week, and four on special occasions. Both men and women should avoid drinking alcohol on some days.
Chile: People who choose to drink are recommended to have one standard drink in one day. More than five drinks consumed in a single day for men or more than four consumed for women is considered harmful.
China: Men should have no more than two and a half standard drinks per day. Women should have no more than one and a half.
Costa Rica: Men and women should consume no more than four standard drinks per day. Men and women should avoid consuming more than two alcoholic beverages on a single occasion.
Denmark: Men can have up to 14 standard drinks per week, while women are allotted up to seven per week. Both men and women should have two alcohol-free days per week.
France: Men and women should limit intake to two glasses of wine or other alcoholic beverages per day, drink no more than 10 glasses per week, and refrain from drinking altogether on some days.
Germany: Men can have up to two standard alcoholic beverages per day. Women should consume no more than one standard drink per day.
Ireland: Men can have up to 17 standard drinks spread out over the week, and women can have up to 11. Both men and women should have at least two alcohol-free days per week.
Italy: Men can have up to two standard drinks per day; women should have no more than one.
Japan: Men should have no more than two standard drinks per day, or one standard drink if over the age of 65. Women should have no more than one standard drink per day.
Mexico: Men should consume less than four alcoholic beverages per occasion and should not drink more than three times per week. Men should not consume more than 12 drinks per week. Women should have no more than three drinks in one day and should not exceed nine drinks per week.
The Netherlands: Men and women both should consume no more than one standard drink per day.
New Zealand: Men can have up to three standard drinks per day and up to 15 per week. No more than five standard drinks should ever be consumed on one drinking occasion. Women can have up to two standard drinks per day, up to 10 per week, and should not consume more than four drinks per occasion.
Norway: Men can have up to two standard drinks per day while women should have no more than one standard drink per day.
Philippines: Men should have no more than two standard alcoholic beverages per day, and women should have no more than one.
Poland: Men should not exceed four standard drinks per day. Women should have no more than two standard drinks in a day. Both men and women should not consume alcohol on more than five days in one week.
Portugal: Men can have up to two and half standard drinks per day, while women can have up to one and a half.
South Korea: Men should cap consumption at five standard drinks, and women should have no more than two and a half drinks per day.
Spain: Spain’s threshold for low-risk alcohol consumption is capped at two standard drinks per day for men and one standard drink per day for women, with acknowledgement that any consumption at all carries risk. At-risk alcohol consumption is considered to be four standard drinks per day for men and two to two and a half standard drinks per day for women.
Sweden: For men, hazardous drinking is consumption of more than 14 standard glasses per week or more than five per occasion. For women, nine standard glasses per week or more than four in one occasion constitutes hazardous drinking.
Switzerland: Men should consume no more than two to three drinks per day and women no more than one to two. Both men and women should allot two alcohol-free days per week.
The United Kingdom: For men and women, it’s recommended to drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week, spread across three days or more. One unit is equivalent to one standard size drink.
The United States: The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests that adults of legal drinking age should limit intake to two drinks or less in a day for men, or one drink or less in a day for women.
*Photo credit: LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS – STOCK.ADOBE.COM
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