Who Contributes More to Alcohol Consumption: Teen Boys or Old Ladies?

I found this amusing relationship when looking through the data in the Gapminder software.

(click image to enlarge)

Both graphs show alcohol consumption per person per year for various countries (each circle represents one country of the world, with the size of the circle based on that country’s population). This metric is compared to the percentage of people in each country who are Teen Boys (ages 15-19) or Old Ladies (age 60+).

Judging from the graphs, it looks like alcohol consumption per person tends to rise as the percentage of Old Ladies rises, while it drops when there is an increasing proportion of Teen Boys.

Of course, there are several problems with this simple analysis. One is that the alcohol consumption figure for each country is the national average, not the consumption just by Teen Boys or by Old Ladies.

Most likely, trends are better explained by national per-capita income. Wealthy countries tend to have lower birth rates, better health care and other factors that contribute to a rising population of older women. Less-wealthy countries tends to have higher birth rates and other factors that contribute to more young men. Wealthier countries also tend to consume more luxury goods, like alcohol.

So, it is probably not the case that Old Ladies are party animals and Teen Boys cause societies to curb their alcohol consumption. But taking the graphs at their face value might make it seem that way.


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