Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

The Republic of Moldova is the drunkest nation in the world thanks in large part to its unrecorded alcohol consumption, which comes in at a whopping 10 liters per capita per year. In fact, Moldova is the only nation on this list (and one of only a handful in the world) that consumes more unrecorded than recorded alcohol. The country also has a nearly even spread across beer, wine and spirits.

What's more, while Moldova declared itself an independent state in 1991, the country only adopted its official constitution on July 29, 1994, so we're not sure it would even be able to drink legally in the U.S.!

Random CIA Factbook Fact: Moldova spent 8.6% of its GDP on education.

- Total: 18.22

- Recorded: 8.22

- Unrecorded: 10.00

- Beer: 4.57

- Wine: 4.67

- Spirits: 4.22

- Other: 0.00

“Every family has a person with a drinking problem"

Moldova has the highest levels of alcohol consumption in the world and the highest death rate linked to drinking. One in four deaths are related to alcohol while the world’s average is one in 20. The latest 2016 World Health Organization (WHO) data found that people over the age of 15 drink on average 15.2 liters of pure alcohol (including alcohol made at home or illegally) per capita each year, the equivalent of around 167 bottles ofwine. Following closely is Lithuania with 15 liters and the Czech Republic with 14.4, while Europe’s average is 9.8. “Every family has a person with a drinking problem,” says Tudor Vasiliev, a psychiatrist specializing in addiction and a coordinator of the National Alcohol Control Program.

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

Accurate figures for Moldova are hard to reach because up to 70% of alcohol consumed is homemade wine, says Olga Penina, a lecturer of Public Health at Chisinau’s State University of Medicine and Pharmacy. The wine-drinking culture sets Moldova and Georgia apart from other post-Soviet countries, where people prefer to drink spirits. The “cult of wine is strong”, says Penina. “Fighting it is problematic.”

Although alcohol consumption levels have overall decreased in Europe, former Soviet countries like Moldova are still home to the world’s heaviest drinking populations. And it’s taking a devastating toll on public health. Alcohol contributes to the deaths of one in five Russians, and it’s among the main reasons for lower life expectancy in the ex-USSR compared to Western countries. In Moldova, where liver cirrhosis is more common than anywhere else in Europe, men live to an average age of 68 and women, 75. Europe’s averages are 79 and 84 respectively.

In the Soviet Union, little was done to curb excessive drinking. It was even encouraged as alcohol production was a very profitable industry for the Soviet government, according the Marya Levintova, a public health expert on Russia. Levintova and a number of other other academics including Mark Schrad said that alcohol in post-Soviet countries has been a “statecraft”. While generating revenue for the government, it has also stymied dissent and promoted autocracy. In his 2014 book Vodka Politics: Alcohol, Autocracy and the Secret History of the Russian State, Schrad wrote that “vodka became an instrument of state domination.”

Moldova - A major wine producer

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Moldova, sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine, is one of the poorest countries in Europe. It is split between ethnic Moldovans, who speak a language almost identical to Romanian, and ethnic Russians. The country is a major wine producer, with many people drinking cheap homemade wine, vodka and other spirits.

Other post-Soviet nations were also identified as culprits when it comes to drinking. While globally, only 6.2 per cent of male deaths and 1.1 per cent of female deaths were linked to alcohol, among Russian men this rises to a staggering 20 per cent and is one of the main reasons why male life expectancy in Russia hovers around 60. Among Russian women, six per cent of deaths are alcohol related.

Countries like Russia and Ukraine have traditionally been big vodka drinkers, but in the 20 years since the collapse of Communism beer has been added into the mix. It was only recently that beer was classified as an alcoholic drink in Russia.

Russia has a long history of alcohol problems and mixed attempts to fight them. Mikhail Gorbachev tried to ban vodka sales except for during a short window in the day, which led to him becoming hugely unpopular and to Russians taking to brewing moonshine.

Already in recent years, many Russian regions, including Moscow, have banned the sale of spirits during nighttime hours. And the head of the local parliament in the Ulyanovsk region recently suggested banning the sale of alcohol for the whole weekend.

Britain was not that far behind the leaders of the pack, coming in at 13.4 litres of pure alcohol per year, compared with 18.1 litres for Moldovans and 16.5 litres for Czechs, who came in second place. Brits drank more beer than any other kind of alcohol, while Russians drank mostly spirits. The Moldovan intake was made up roughly equally of wine, spirits and beer.

While Moldovans drink more than anyone else, the WHO report confirmed that Russia and Ukraine were home to the most "risky" drinking. They were the only two countries to receive the top "five out of five" risk score, which was calculated for each country based on how people drink as well as how much.

Mediterranean countries came out as the least risky drinkers of all, despite consuming a large amount of alcohol. Britain was given a three out of five score, meaning that drinking was moderately risky.

*******READ MORE: Top 10 Oldest Breweries In The World

Heaviest drinking countries

Estimated total alcohol consumption per person in litres:

Republic of Moldova 18.22

Czech Republic 16.45

Hungary 16.27

Russia 15.76

Ukraine 15.6

Estonia 15.57

Andorra 15.48

Romania 15.3

Slovenia 15.19

Belarus 15.13

UK 13.37

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