Not all beers are created equal

  • Per capita consumption of ethanol derived from alcohol sales can indicate a population's overall alcohol-drinking behaviors.
  • New research shows that more alcohol is being consumed in the form of beer than previously thought, and the national mean alcohol content of beer is higher than previously thought.
  • Researchers call for consumers to pay more attention to the alcohol content of the beer they consume, and for the provision of more lower-strength beers.

The apparent per capita consumption of ethanol derived from sales of beer, wine and spirits is the most comprehensive and reliable measure of a population's overall alcohol-drinking behaviors. New findings, published in the October issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, indicate that more alcohol is being consumed in the form of beer than previously thought, and the national mean alcohol content of beer is higher than previously thought.

"Alcohol consumption in the U.S. comes from three main beverage types," said William C. Kerr, associate scientist with the Alcohol Research Group at the Public Health Institute and first author of the study, "beer, wine and spirits. Beer is the largest source of alcohol consumption, though the share of each beverage type varies by state and changes over time. Market share can help better understand aspects of drinking culture related to beverage choice. For example, France and Italy are wine-preferring countries, while Russia is a spirits-preferring country."

"It may seem strange, but it has been found again and again that a small percentage change in the overall alcohol consumption of a nation predicts similar changes in the number of serious problems caused by drinking, such as deaths, injuries and illnesses," said Tim Stockwell, professor and director of the Centre for Addictions Research of B.C. at the University of Victoria. "This means a seemingly small increase in the total amount of ethanol con


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