Definition of Standard Drink Varies Greatly Among Nations: Study

The definition of a standard alcoholic drink varies greatly from country to country, according to a new study. The definition of unhealthy drinking also differs, CNN reports.

The study, published in Addiction, looked at the definition of a standard drink in 37 countries. In Iceland and the United Kingdom, a standard drink contains eight grams of pure alcohol. In Austria, a standard drink has 20 grams. Switzerland defines a standard drink as containing between 10 and 12 grams, while Luxembourg’s standard drink contains 12.8 grams. The United States defines a standard drink as having 14 grams. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that’s equivalent to about 12 ounces of beer, 8 ounces of malt liquor, 5 ounces of wine or a single 1.5 ounce shot of hard liquor.

Nine countries have separate drinking guidelines for special occasions, the article notes. In Chile, high-risk drinking is considered anything more than 56 grams daily. In Sweden and India, high-risk drinking involves anything more than 10 grams.

“We’re participating in a discussion where people don’t agree on the most basic terms,” said study author Keith Humphreys, a psychiatry professor at Stanford. “We’re trading off valuations. If you asked, ‘How important is it to be fun versus to be safe?’ you would get different answers from Germans and Americans and Fijians.”

The World Health Organization defines a standard drink as 10 grams of pure ethanol, with both men and women advised not to exceed two standard drinks per day. According to the study, although the WHO’s definition of a standard drink is the one most often used, half of countries with drinking guidelines don’t use it.

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