A few weeks ago I read a popular article online in the Washington Post about the international ranking of alcohol consumption habits. Every Irish person is instantly interested in this subject, as although we in Ireland are not impressed by the stereotype of ourselves as drunken messes, we as a small country are proud of any opportunity to be the best at something, regardless of what that something is. A few years ago, it was revealed that the Irish drank more cups of tea per person per day than any other nationality, and this was reported as the leading story on the national evening news that day. Similarly, in my current home of Austria, the Austrians are very proud of topping the international beer drinking charts a few years ago. Sadly, both Austria and Ireland have been overtaken, and indeed put to shame, by the Czech Republic over the past decade, and I wasn’t surprised to see the Czechs top the rankings the Washington Post’s study from last month. Figure 1 below reports the top 30 country rankings I pulled from the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Global Information System on Alcohol and Health (GISAH), which is the source of the Washington Posts data. The graph reports average ml of alcohol consumed per person per year.
Of course as a major sufferer of small-country-syndrome (which is exacerbated by also being an ex-pat), I was irrationally annoyed at Ireland only coming in third place, outdone by two countries that didn’t even exist when I was growing up. So naturally, as a social scientist, I started thinking of ways to analyse the data better (in a way that would hopefully further Irelands position in the ranking). After thinking about it for a while, I settled on creating an index of Functional Boozing. For while Estonia and the Czech Republic do engage in a lot of drinking, they pay for it dearly, as both countries are not really up to much in the world economy, or anything else. Ireland, meanwhile had an economic boom, lots of jobs and plenty of tourism and international prestige. This didn’t end well, but at least it was something. During the boom period of the Celtic Tiger in Ireland, we were consistently ranked in the top 5 beer drinking nations in the world, which is something not many countries can lay claim to. I therefore settled on the idea that it was not just about how much a country drinks; it is about the productivity, quality, and indeed happiness of the country itself that should also be a factor in this ranking. Continue reading