The government of Great Britain has decided it’s OK for Brits to drink more. That is, after noting that the previous recommendation had been “plucked out of the air,” government scientists turned to actual health data to determine how much adults can drink each day before their health starts to deteriorate. The answer: more. The Ministry of Whoever Decides This Kind of Junk has increased the “safe” daily consumption level for men from three units a day to four, and for women from two units to three. (A “unit” of alcohol is 10 mililiters, the equivalent of about a half glass of wine.)
Most but not all governments believe that men can safely drink more than women. The United States Government, for example, says men can safely drink 3.5 units of alcohol a day, but women can only safely drink half as much — particularly if there are men around. (That may change. The government of the United States is currently up for sale, and new ownership may influence how much alcohol the government recommends people drink. Or, for that matter, how much people need to drink to tolerate their government.) In Italy and Spain, however, the government thinks it’s just fine if women drink as much as men. In fact, the Italian government recommends generally that women go ahead and have another drink and perhaps go for a little walk in the moonlight.
The government with the highest tolerance for alcohol: New Zealand. That’s useful because New Zealand has a huge wine surplus, and storing it is expensive, so people might as well drink-up.
As far as New Zealand is concerned, people can drink 7.5 units of alcohol (nearly four glasses of wine) a day without anyone expressing grave concern about the state of modern society. Interestingly, despite the government’s high tolerance for alcohol consumption, New Zealanders drink relatively little. (Data pdf here). The average Kiwi adult drinks almost 20% less than the world average. That’s barely one-third as much as the government says they could. Contrast that with, for example, the hard-drinking Czech Republic, where people drink 40% more than the world average and actually exceed their daily, government-specified alcohol quota by nearly one full glass of wine per adult. So you might want to consider using public transportation if you visit Prague.
I did, by the way, an extensive spreadsheet trying to find some correlation between government recommendations and national drinking habits. I put statistics through all kinds of gymnastics, absolutely certain that somewhere in all that data was an insightful correlation that would serve as the basis of a series of jokes. What I found was that there is no relationship between how much a country’s government recommends its people drink, and how much those people actually drink. Governments might as well be pulling numbers out of a hat (“The FDA today recommended that American limit their drinking to ‘Inspected by Number 6′ units of alcohol per day…”) for all the attention anyone pays to these recommendations.