Jul 28, 2014 | By Tim Stoddart

Why Does America Have Such a Drinking Problem?

Addiction Resources

All over the world, people are drinking. Alcohol is the world’s most popular drug, and no matter how different people may be from country to country, alcoholism affects us all in the same ways. Globally, about four percent of deaths are attributed to alcohol, which is more people than AIDS kills. Wherever you find alcohol, you find drinking problems, too, but in some countries the problems are more common. America, for example, has a significant drinking problem. Why?

americas drinking problem

If you look closer at the statistics, you’ll find that Americans aren’t the world’s biggest drinkers. Europeans, in fact, consume more alcohol than anyone else. European youth are also more likely to drink (and drink at a young age) than American adolescents. Ireland and Russia are the countries that drink the most. When you look at the numbers, you’d think that Europeans would have the most drinking problems. However, in many instances, Europe actually has fewer drinking problems than America.

When you compare continents, you find that America has the most alcohol-related deaths. In America, you’re more likely to die from a car crash involving alcohol. With the exception of Russia, binge drinking also occurs more often in America. Compared to Europe as a whole, America has more drinking problems. The only European country that seems to have more alcohol problems than America is Russia, where one in five deaths are alcohol-related.

Why is there such a distinct difference between Europe and America when it comes to drinking problems? The most plausible explanation is the difference in attitudes toward drinking. In America, alcohol is a more forbidden and vilified substance, but in Europe it’s more accepted. In most European countries, the age limit to purchase alcohol is 16 or 18. In America, it’s 21, and many adolescents are sheltered from alcohol until they are old enough to purchase it. The youth in Europe, however, grow up more accustomed to alcohol, which means they can also learn more about responsible drinking at a younger age. Even though more European youth are drinking, American youth are bigger binge drinkers, which points to their relative inexperience with alcohol when they reach adulthood. It’s interesting to note that in Russia, the only European country with more alcohol-related deaths than America, the drinking age is also 21.

When it comes to fatal, alcohol-related car accidents, there are a couple possible reasons why they’re more common in America. The first is the notion that Europeans are more responsible drinkers than Americans, due to their earlier exposure to it and cultural attitudes towards it. The second is that more Europeans take public transportation. Public transportation is more accessible in more parts of Europe than it is in America.

No matter what the numbers are, alcohol leads to serious problems everywhere, and every individual problem drinker, alcoholic and alcoholic’s family are equally impacted by it. In trying to reduce the number of alcohol-related deaths and car accidents in America, however, it is worth it to look at Europe and consider what contributes to fewer problems overall there.

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