Rob’s post inspired me to look up the WHO report on drinking in the USA, and to do some quick calculations. According to this data, American adults (defined as people over 15) consume slightly less than two drinks per day per capita. This is using the standard definition of a drink as 12 ounces of beer, or five ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor. However, according to the CDC only 52% of American adults are regular drinkers (defined rather modestly as at least 12 drinks per year), while 35% of the adult population never drinks alcohol at all.
Thus half the American adult population is averaging around 3.5 drinks per day. That is a mean rather than a median — the median is probably not far from the one to two drinks per day that appears to correlate with better health than either total abstention or heavy drinking.
As Yglesias notes, much of the health risk associated with drinking in the USA could be mitigated if people didn’t have to drive everywhere.