Alcohol Abuse in Austria—A Serious Problem

Vienna, Austria
Photo by pressdigital/

In Austria, a significant percentage of the adult population engages in drinking patterns considered excessive by both the World Health Organization and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. What are the numbers on this? And what must be done to reduce heavy drinking in Austria?

Heavy Drinking Defined

Austria ranks high for heavy drinking per capita. But what is “heavy drinking” exactly? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “For men, heavy drinking is typically defined as consuming 15 drinks or more per week. For women, heavy drinking is typically defined as consuming 8 drinks or more per week.”

According to a report that examined drinking trends in countries worldwide, about 50% of Austria’s population that does consume alcohol also engages in heavy drinking every month. Of Austria’s drinking population (which is already quite high, see the next section re: only ten percent of Austria’s population not drinking), about half of Austria’s drinking population is consuming far too much alcohol, with the other half of the drinking population being at risk for moving into the heavy drinking population band.

Likely because of the high percentage of Austria’s population that drinks to excess, Austria has the highest annual average of alcohol consumption per person, at 10.4 liters of alcohol consumed per Austrian resident.

A Different Normal—How Austrians View “Moderate” Drinking

Austrians enjoy the evening
Photo by benedek/

One of the factors that may contribute to Austria’s position as one of the countries with the highest per capita alcohol consumption is that Austrians view a “standard drink” quite differently from most countries. One research project surveyed residents of 37 countries to find out what a “standard drink” was in each country. In Austria, 20g of alcohol is considered a standard drink, compared to the World Health Organization’s definition of a standard drink as 10g (or the UK and Iceland defining a standard drink as 8g of alcohol).

What’s considered a normal-size alcoholic beverage in Austria is double what the WHO says should be considering a normal-sized alcoholic beverage. Indeed, what’s thought of as “high” or “low” alcohol content varies around the world. To the Austrians, larger volumes of alcohol are considered normal, which has likely contributed to higher-than-average per capita alcohol consumption among the Austrian people.

The findings also revealed that about 200,000 Austrians drink to excess. Only one in ten Austrians do not drink alcohol, with 39% of men and 15% of women admitting to consuming alcohol two to three times per week or more.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development revealed that Austrians drink 1.1 liters per year more alcohol than the EU average, and that Austria is the second largest consumer per capita of alcohol of countries covered by the OECD.

The Risk of Addiction

Any amount of alcohol consumption presents a risk for alcohol misuse, alcohol dependence, and alcohol addiction. There is no “safe” level of drinking. In fact, the only safe level of drinking is to simply not drink at all.

In Austria, the prevalence of alcohol dependence is quite high. About 8.8% of men ages 15 and up are dependent on alcohol, as are 3% of women ages 15 and up. Compare that to the European region as a whole, where only 3.7% of Europeans are alcohol dependent.

There is undoubtedly a connection between how many Austrian adults drink (the vast majority), how much they drink (much more alcohol consumed per person than the European average), and the higher-than-average alcohol addiction statistics in Austria. With that in mind, helping Austrians overcome alcohol addiction will require the families of Austrian addicts to help their loved ones get into drug and alcohol addiction treatment centers.

Addiction Treatment—Getting Rid of Alcohol Addiction for Good

Alcohol addiction is a difficult affliction, a serious struggle that affects an addict’s physical health and mental wellbeing. Though alcohol dependence statistics are high in Austria, that does not mean Austrian residents cannot be helped.

Alcohol addiction can be overcome, no matter how much one drinks or how long they’ve been drinking. If you know someone who is addicted to alcohol, please help them enter into a residential drug and alcohol addiction treatment center. Alcohol addiction cannot be overcome on one’s own, not safely or effectively. Please get your loved one help before it is too late.




After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.