Fewer Canadians drinking booze, but sales up: report
A cocktail is poured in Ottawa on Saturday, April 11, 2015. (Justin Tang/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Published Wednesday, February 3, 2016 11:16AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 3, 2016 4:52PM EST
Canadian alcohol sales are on the rise, according to a new report that says beer remains the beverage of choice.
The report, which was released by Canada's Chief Public Health Officer on Wednesday, says alcohol sales totalled $20.5 billion in the 2013-2014 fiscal year, up 1.1 per cent compared to the previous year.
Using data from Statistics Canada and other studies, the "Alcohol Consumption in Canada" report examined Canadians' drinking habits and alcohol purchases, and how they relate to public health.
It found that, while spending on alcohol is up, the number of Canadians who reported drinking in the last year is actually in decline. It also found that beer remains the most popular alcoholic beverage in the country, and that many Canadians underestimate how much they drink.
In 2013, an estimated 22 million Canadians 15 or older, or about 76 per cent of the population, reported drinking in the previous year, the report says. That's a three per cent drop from 2004, when 79 per cent reported drinking.
According to the report, the drop in drinking is even more apparent in young Canadians, aged 15 to 24. Among this group, the percentage who reported drinking in the last year went from 78 per cent in 2004 to 73 per cent in 2013.
Among those who drank alcohol in the previous year, beer remained the beverage of choice.
Some 51 per cent of Canadians drink beer, while 27 per cent drink spirits and 22 per cent consume wine, the report says.
"From April 2013 to March 2014, Canadians bought almost 76 litres of beer, 16 litres of wine, 5 litres of spirits and 4 litres of other alcoholic beverages per person," it says.
However, these numbers could actually be higher.
According to the report, "most people tend to underreport how much alcohol they drink."
The report suggests a number of factors lead both men and women to underestimate their alcohol consumption.
For example, some surveys don't factor in the extra drinks consumed on special occasions, or are unlikely to look at "home brews," and focus instead on government-regulated beverages.
And just as many Canadians underestimate how much they drink, they are also likely to underestimate the harmful effects alcohol can have, the report says.
Costs related to alcohol abuse in Canada total about $14.6 billion a year, the report says, including $7.1 billion in lost productivity, $3.3 billion in health care costs, and $3.1 billion in law enforcement.
The report also says alcohol is also among Canadians' top ten risk factors for disease, and risky drinking is on the rise among women 35 years of age or older.
The report mentions a number of factors that may cause Canadians to turn to alcohol, but it identifies "social acceptability" as "perhaps the most challenging aspect to tackle."
In a society where alcohol is widely sold, promoted and consumed, the report urged Canadians to think about the potential effects of consuming alcohol.
"I suggest Canadians and our institutions take a closer look at our current approach and reflect if we are doing enough to reduce the harms associated with drinking alcohol," the report said.