It seems there’s an annual, worldwide, country by country survey of drinking practices, including drunkenness. Who knew? The most recent findings:

‘Risky levels’: Australia is the drunkest country in the world

This is not to say Australians drink more frequently than others. They do not. But when they do drink, it’s often to the point of intoxication.

The French, on the other hand, drink far more frequently than their neighbors. Seldom, however, to the point of overt drunkenness.

This I can believe, given France’s longstanding reputation for consumption of alcohol on a ‘maintenance’ basis. The other evening we tuned in on a popular TV detective show set in Paris. It was impossible to miss the sheer number of times during an hour episode that the crack team of homicide inspectors stopped dead in the middle of investigating to refresh themselves with booze. A mug of draft beer, a carafe of wine, a glass of brandy, shot of cognac – and no one ever appeared to feel it wasn’t a fine time to have a drink. I suppose if they kept that up over a couple decades, the liver and other key organs would sustain considerable damage. And perhaps eventually give out.

Anyway, the French led the developed world in the survey by drinking three days out of every seven. Are we to believe they abstain the rest of the week? Not sure I can swallow that.

Back to the Australians: Aussies admit to drinking to intoxication roughly twice as often as the average among all countries surveyed. Tied for second place are Denmark and Finland. The US finishes third, a solid ‘show’ bet at the race track.

This is survey data, meaning it’s anchored in self-report. People are known to minimize their own alcohol consumption, so the reality may actually be worse than we know. A better indicator might be the number of Emergency Room contacts related to drinking — there, Australians triple the average of the other nations.

Predictably, the pandemic has indeed changed peoples’ drinking behavior, for the worse. Per the Executive Director of the organization that conducted the survey:

“In such an uncertain time, there’s been a sustained change in the way alcohol is sold. Companies have been aggressively marketing, and using Covid and preying on anxieties to sell their products… We have this perfect storm for an increase in alcohol harm and we’re only just starting to see that.”

It figures. However, from the perspective of the alcohol beverage industry, the COVID-19 pandemic has a definite silver lining. Sales are up everywhere. Experts predict a trend that will likely continue even after the pandemic fades. Bad habits, once established, are difficult  to eradicate.

So, thanks for nuthin’, Big Liquor. It’s one more piece evidence that we can’t rely on a profit-making business to police itself. Ultimately? Greed wins out.