Alcohol consumption: Methodology

The alcohol consumption component of the BC alcohol and other drug (AOD) monitoring project (now housed under Co/Lab) assembles time-series data on alcohol sales in different geographic regions of British Columbia. Such data can be used to better understand epidemiological issues related to alcohol consumption, policy development, evaluation and interventions.

Key findings from this component can be found in facts & stats/alcohol consumption in BC.

Our interactive trend analyzer allows you to explore and compare the impacts and statistical trends of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use for different groups of people in different parts of BC, including maps of alcohol consumption. 


This report presents the estimates of per capita litres of absolute alcohol consumption for 89 local health areas (LHAs), 16 health service delivery areas (HSDAs), 5 health authorities (HAs) and the whole province in the province of British Columbia (BC) of Canada during the period from 2002 to 2019 based on the alcohol sale data and the Ubrew/Uvin data obtained from the BC Liquor Distribution Branch and BC Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (now the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch). See our BC alcohol consumption tool for data tables.

1.1. Alcohol sales data

The estimates of total absolute alcohol consumption for health regions in BC in this report were based on two data sources, the sale alcohol data from the BC Liquor Distribution Branch and the Ubrew/Uvin data from the BC Liquor Control and Licensing Branch. Both of these branches report to the Ministry of Finance.

1.1.1. Sales data

The BC alcohol sales data were obtained from the Ministry of Finance's Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) which regulates the distribution, importation and retailing of beverage alcohol in BC and operates close to 200 government liquor stores in the province. The data were collapsed by the Liquor Distribution Branch into 89 BC local health areas (LHAs) and into 4 or 5 week periods for the fiscal years from 2002/03 to 2020/21. The weekly sales data were requested for the period from April 2019 to the first week of July 2020.

The health structure file was used to merge alcohol consumption data by LHA into HSDAs and HAs in order to estimate alcohol consumption for LHAs, HSDAs and HAs.

The data included the litres of absolute alcohol sold at off-site government and private liquor stores, and on-premise establishments for the fiscal years 2002/03-2020/21. Alcohol sales were broken down by type of beverage (beer, cooler, spirit and wine), and within each beverage type, with groupings based on the percent of alcohol for each product. The number of establishments by take-out premises (take-out government liquor stores and private liquor stores) and two categories of on-premise (restaurant and bar) sales were also included.

1.1.2. Ubrew and Uvin data

U-Brew and U-Vin data were obtained from the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (LCLB, now the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch) which issues licenses in BC for making and selling liquor and supervises the service of liquor in licensed establishments. The data in litres of beverage volumes for beers, ciders and wines were provided for municipalities by the LCLB. The Ubrew and Uvin data for fiscal years 2007/08-2017/18 were unavailable, and extrapolations were used for estimates. The beers, ciders and wines in beverage volume in litres from Ubrew and Uvin were provided and conversion factors for these beverages were used to convert the beverages to absolute alcohol consumption in litres. The volume of absolute alcohol from Ubrew/Uvin production was calculated with conversion factors of 5.04% for beer and 6.77% for ciders, and 12.53% for wines.1

1.2. Population data

Provincial population data, classified into 89 LHAs were obtained from BC Stats. 2 The data set consists of population estimates for years 1986-2041 which incorporate information from the 1986, 1991, 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011 Censuses of Canada. BC Stats produces sub-provincial population estimates using the Generalized Estimates System (GES) on an annual basis. These sub-provincial population estimates are based on the 2011 Census counts adjusted for census net undercoverage and incompletely enumerated Indian Reserves to which is added the estimated demographic growth for the period from May 10, 2011, to July 1, 2016. More details on methodology can be found elsewhere.3 The data were updated by BC Stats in October 2019. The PCA estimates were based on the updated population. The PCA estimates since calendar year 2012 or fiscal year 2012/13 based on the updated population in this year was lower than that did last year because the updated population aged 15+ appeared to increase since 2012 (see Table 1). This effect might be more marked for small areas.


1.3. Statistical analyses

There are a total of 5 HAs, 16 HSDAs and 89 LHAs in BC. Per capita alcohol consumption for all these health areas from calendar years 2002 to 2019 was estimated by taking total absolute alcohol consumption in each year and dividing it by population aged 15 years old and over in each area.4 The alcohol consumption for years 2002 and the first three months of 2003 was estimated based on total alcohol consumption for each LHA by month and the proportion of alcohol consumption in each LHA by month in years 2004-2011. The alcohol and population data for LHAs in each year within each HSDA and HA were aggregated to estimate per capital alcohol consumption for HSDAs and HAs each year. Because this estimate procedure of the consumption for years 2002-2019 has been changed and the updated population dataset from the BC Stats was used, the per capita alcohol consumption for some areas has been changed compared to the estimate last year. The estimates of per capita alcohol consumption in some years for Nisag’a and Telegraph Creek have been suppressed because of low estimates of the consumption and small number of outlets.

Per capita alcohol consumption was calculated for the whole province for calendar years 2002-2019 and fiscal years 2002/03 – 2019/20. The estimates were done by outlet types (restaurant, bar, government liquor store, private liquor store and Ubrew/Uvin) for calendar years 2002-2019 and fiscal years 2002/03-2019/20.

Per capita low priced alcohol consumption ($1.14 per drink=17.05 or $66.67 per litre ethanol) was also estimated for the province in calendars 2003-2019 and fiscal years 2003/04-2019/20.


  1. Macdonald S, Zhao J, Pakula B, Stockwell T, Martens L. Unlocking patterns of alcohol consumption in British Columbia using alcohol sales data: A foundation for public health monitoring. Contemporary Drug Problems 2009; 36(Fall/Winter): 18.
  2. BC Stats. Sub-Provincial Population Projections - P.E.O.P.L.E. August 2017 ed: BC Stats. Available from URL: Accessible 30 August 2018; 2017.
  3. BC Stats Population Section. P.E.O.P.L.E. Methodology: Population extrapolation for organizational planning with less error. Accessible on Sugust 31, 2018: Victoria, BC, 1999.
  4. Stockwell T, Chikritzhs T. International guide for monitoring alcohol consumption and related harm. Geneva: World Health Organization. Available from URL: Accessible 13 December 2016; 2000.