Alcohol consumption can lead to serious health problems, and those who drink excessively are at more risk. However, people who want to watch their drinking habits could get confused because the amount of a standard drink differs from country to country, research says.

A study conducted by Stanford University School of Medicine showed that of 75 countries surveyed, less than 50 percent or only 37 countries have standard drinking guidelines. Moreover, the amount of what is standard varies from one place to another.

Some people are confused to which guideline of standard drinks will they follow, especially if they travel a lot.

The Confusion

The World Health Organization may have suggested a standard drinking limit of 10 grams (0.35 ounce) of pure ethanol and not to drink more than 2 standard drinks a day. Other countries, though, say differently.

The confusion in guidelines on drinking includes the unit of measure, sex and daily or weekly limit.

In some countries, men's drinking limit is much higher compared to women, daily or weekly alcohol consumption is also a confusion. Some people are not sure whether standard drinks are of grams of the pure alcohol, proof or percentage or volume of the alcohol.

This confusion also post dilemmas on researchers wanting to study patterns of alcohol use and addiction across the globe.

The Standard Drink

Aside from the variance in the amount of a standard drink per country, drinking habits also depend on whether there is an occasion. Countries such as Denmark, Canada, France, Fiji, Mexico, Poland, New Zealand, the UK and Australia, allow people to drink more during special days.

"A study of the health effects of low-risk drinking in France could be misinterpreted by researchers in the United States who may use a different definition of drinking levels." said Kieth Humphreys, a professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University.

A person is still considered a low-risk drinker if he consumes 56 grams (1.98 ounces) of alcohol per day in Chile, but that might be considered very high in Austria wherein the standard is 20 grams (0.7 ounce) of alcohol. More so in the United Kingdom and Iceland, where the accepted is just 8 grams (0.28 ounce).

In the United States, the standards of 14 grams (0.49 ounce) of alcohol could be translated in two ways – 12 ounces of beer or 5 ounces of wine.

In Australia, Portugal, Grenada, and South Africa, the standard on drinks is the same for men and women.

"The variability seen by the researchers reflects the need for more study about responsible alcohol consumption and also the differences in cultural attitudes among countries," said Humpreys.

The study was published in the journal Addiction and supported by the U.S. Veterans Health Administration.

Photo: Marnie Joyce | Flickr

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