The World Health Organization recently released its Global status report on alcohol and health 2014. The World Health Organization is a great resource for health data, and the release of this report will spawn many data visualizations of the data in the data visualization community. It’s an interesting data set to explore and I’ve been wanting to try out a few online data visualization tools I’ve recently discovered so I thought I’d use this data to try out Datawrapper, “an open source tool helping everyone to create simple, correct and embeddable charts in minutes.”

Probably the most common visualization from this data set will be a choropleth map, which is featured on page 29 of the status report.

Recorded alcohol per capita (15+ years) consumption of pure alcohol

Recorded APC is defined as the recorded amount of alcohol consumed per capita (15+ years) over a calendar year in a country, in litres of pure alcohol. The indicator only takes into account the consumption which is recorded from production, import, export, and sales data often via taxation. (Source)

Link to this visualization

This map is somewhat misleading because it doesn’t account for the non-drinkers in each country’s population. Though total APC is a very good indicator of a population’s level of alcohol consumption, it makes an average for the whole population no matter if people consume alcohol or not. A better indicator of alcohol consumption for a country would be to look at the per capita consumption among drinkers only.

Note: notice that there are several countries in Africa on the map that aren’t colored in. This is a result of DataWrapper not finding a matching name for the country from the WHO data set, in this case the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, and others. I was able to resolve several other mismatches in country names between WHO and DataWrapper but not for these countries.

Total alcohol per capita (15+ years) consumption of pure alcohol among drinkers

Total APC among drinkers is defined as the total (recorded and unrecorded) amount of alcohol consumed per adult (15+ years) drinker over a calendar year, in litres of pure alcohol. (Source)

Link to this visualization


To me, this second data set paints a more accurate picture of global alcohol consumption than the first chart which dilutes the amount consumed per capita by including non-drinkers. This second map gives a better idea of how much the drinking population of a country actually drinks. But, a choropleth map doesn’t allow us to compare the values across countries nearly as well as the boring, but ever-useful bar chart.

Link to this visualization

You have to scroll down pretty far to see how the US stacks up in global alcohol consumption. But, notice anything unusual in this bar chart visualization? With the bar chart, it’s much easier to see that top alcohol consuming nation per capita; Chad, and right behind Chad is the United Arab Emirates a  predominantly Muslim (77% of the population) nation. But keep in mind, this particular data set is amount of alcohol consumed among drinkers only. So how does total alcohol consumed per capita for the whole population stack up in a bar chart?

Link to this visualization

A much different picture isn’t it! Either data set you look at however, the US sits somewhere in the middle globally in alcohol consumption. In a future data visualization we’ll look at how varied alcohol consumption is within the US, using a different data set.

But, back to DataWrapper. After toying around with this data set using DataWrapper for just a few hours, I think it’s mostly a pretty nice, intuitive online data viz tool. There are a few quirks with the choropleth map, mostly in cleaning up the data set to match the country names defined within DataWrapper, but their choropleth map functionality is still in Beta. If you’ve got some data visualization to do, you should absolutely check out DataWrapper.