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Spirits

Who drinks the most in the world?

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 (Olivier Lantzendorffer)

But when it comes to alcoholic beverages, who really drinks the most?

The answer may surprise you. According to data from the World Health Organization’s latest Global status report on alcohol and health, people in Tajikistan consume the most alcoholic beverages each year—an average of 30.3 liters per person.  That's surprising considering that it's a mainly Muslim nation, and as a result about 80 percent of its population never drink. So those who drink, drink a lot.

Not so shocking is that Russia comes in second as the heaviest boozer -- at 22.3 liters per person. 

But most significant is the dramatic rise of alcohol consumption in China. 

While Western nations, including the U.S., the U.K. and Ireland, have experienced moderate decreases in alcohol consumption over the past 30 years, China’s explosive economic growth has resulted in a spike in the number of drinkers.

In 1978, China’s per capita alcohol consumption hovered around just 2.5 liters of alcohol a year. In 2010, the figure jumped to 6.7 liters. Today that figure is 15.1 liters of alcohol a year—superseding the U.S. (13.3), Germany (14.7) and France (12.9).

Yet, 42 percent of men and 71 percent of women don't drink, according to The Lancet.

The legal drinking age in China is 18.  But health problems associated with over consumption, like fatty liver disease, are on the rise and some medical policy experts say the government should regulate alcohol to limit its availability.

The Lancet notes that drinking in China isn't just a leisure activity among friends. A lot of booze is regularly consumed over business dinners or with colleagues, making it "vital to career advancement."