Alcohol consumption

A graph of annual per capita alcohol consumption in BC and Canada
  • Data is reported in litres of absolute alcohol. 1 Litre of absolute alcohol = 58.65 standard drinks
  • Want to know how many standard drinks are in an alcohol container? Try our drink calculator.

In the most recent year of our BC AOD Monitoring Project data (2018/19), BC recorded a decrease (0.09L) in per capita pure alcohol (ethanol) consumption, down to 9.35L from 9.44. This is the first decrease in consumption since 2012/13.

Age 15+ per capita alcohol consumption of 9.35 L equates to the average British Columbian drinker aged 15+ consuming 548 bottles of beer a year, 10.5 per week or 1.5 per day (regular strength 5% 341 mL bottles) or 104 average strength bottles of wine (12%, 750 mL bottles) or two bottles of wine per week or 1.5 medium glasses per day.

The most recent Statistics Canada data for per capita pure alcohol consumption in Canada (2017/18) saw a slight uptick over the previous year, for a total of 8.2L per person aged 15+ per year (or 480 bottles of 5% beer each per year). Their data saw a 0.1L increase in BC from 8.8L to 8.9L, well above the Canadian average.

Our BC AOD Monitoring Project is able to provide more accurate data than Statistics Canada for a number of reasons:

  • U-Brew and U-Vin sales are included in the per capita consumption estimates
  • More accurate estimates of the ethanol strength of typical alcoholic beverages is used
  • More up-to-date population estimates from BC Statistics are used

Read more about our methodology or download our data tables.

You can view interactive maps of alcohol consumption in BC (2002-2017, broken down by Health Authority, Health Service Delivery Area and Local Health Area) via our AOD Trend Analyzer Tool.

Alcohol consumption in BC by region

a map of alcohol consumption in BC by health authority

In 2018, the highest alcohol consumption in BC was in the 1. Interior (13.35L), 4. Vancouver Island (11.73L) and 5. Northern (10.79L) Health Authorities, with the lowest levels in the 3. Vancouver (8.72) and 2. Fraser (6.83) Health authorities. Consumption in the Interior is almost double that in Fraser. 

For more detailed, interactive maps, please visit our AOD Trend Analyzer tool.

A map of alcohol consumption in BC by Health Service Delivery Area

The Health Service Delivery Areas with the highest alcohol consumption in 2018 were both in the Interior: 11. East Kootenay (14.42L) and 13. Okanagan (13.78L). Consumption was lowest in 22.  Fraser North (6.01L) and 31. Richmond (4.29L).

For more detailed, interactive maps, please visit our AOD Trend Analyzer tool.

A map of alcohol consumption in BC by Local Health Area

When broken down to Local Health Authority, highest 2018 consumption was recorded in 4. Windermere (26.25L), 48. Howe Sound (25.92L)  and 14. Southern Okanagan (25.11L). Lowest was in 166. Vancouver-South (4.21L) 94. Telegraph Creek (0.0L) and 89. Nisga’a (the independent health authority reported 0L of alcohol consumption).

For more detailed, interactive maps, please visit our AOD Trend Analyzer tool.

Alcohol consumption in BC by venue

ac-estimates-by-venue

In 2010, private liquor stores became the leading purveyor of alcohol in BC, overtaking government liquor stores, and accounting for 46% (or 17.9 million litres) of the total volume of pure alcohol sold in the provice in 2018/19.

Our data also shows that alcohol sales from bars are going down. It is likely that the increasing sales from private liquor stores are driving some of the upward trend in alcohol consumption and maybe this increasingly competitive liquor store market is taking business away from the bars. Our previous BC research shows how private liquor stores contribute to increased consumption and harm.

Alcohol consumption in BC by beverage type

Per capita litres of alcohol consumption by beverage type in BC

  • Data is reported in litres of absolute alcohol. 1 Litre of Absolute Alcohol = 58.65 Standard Drinks
  • Want to know how many standard drinks are in an alcohol container? Try our drink calculator.

While beer has consistently remained the most popular beverage type since 2002 (British Columbians bought the equivalent of over 882 million bottles of 5% beer in 2018/19, or an average of 218 bottles per year for every citizen aged 15+), wine overtook spirits in 2011/12 to become our second most popular beverage. However, both beer and wine saw a slight decrease in consumption in 2018/19, with coolers seeing a 0.09L increase.

 

Alcohol outlets in BC

alcohol outlets in bc

As of 2018, there are a total of 7,857 alcohol outlets in BC, including restaurants, bars, and government and private liquor stores. From 2002 to 2019 (mean for first three months), restaurants increased by 28%, Private liquor stores increased by 145%, and government liquor stores and bars decreased by 8% and 12%, respectively.

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Once we use population data to look at rates of alcohol venues per 100,000 people in BC aged 15+, we see that restaurants have seen very little change from 2001/02 to 2018/19. Government liquor stores have fallen from 6.45 to 4.77 per 100,000 citizens aged 15+, while private liquor stores have been on the rise and bars have been steadily declining.