Water needs is a common ground across populations and cultures according to the survey but local habits and knowledge still affect water consumption.
Kantar TNS and Nestle Waters published a survey on attitudes about water consumption in seven countries: China, France, Italy, Mexico, the UK, the US and Turkey.
What are the main differences in water consumption and drinking habits among countries? What are the main reasons people cite for drinking or not drinking water? What information is transmitted about water in each country and how is it shared?
The survey was distributed online to 3,504 people (about 500 people per country). Each sample is representative of a population aged 18 to 64 years (except for Mexico and Turkey, where the survey included anyone over 18, and in China, where the surveyed population was aged 18 to 55 years old).
Overview of the results
Drinking water is declared as a daily habit by all respondents in all countries
Nine out of 10 participants say they drink water every day. They drink mostly bottled water (59%) and tap water (44%) but also filtered water and water from drinking fountains (23% and 20%, respectively). The UK emerged as the smallest daily consumer of bottled water (39%) with Italy being the highest consumer (81%). China stands out in the consumption of water from drinking fountains (48%), with a 20% average across all countries.
The survey also shows that there are strong disparities in daily water consumption among the seven countries:
• Italy is the country that drinks the most in quantity (91% drink at least 1 liter of water per day).
• At the opposite end, the UK is the smallest water drinker overall (only 48% drink a liter of water daily).
When respondents were asked which beverage they drink every day, the most popular beverage after water is milk for China and Mexico and hot drinks for the other countries. Nevertheless, the consumption of water is much higher than for any other beverage: 68% of people drink at least 1 liter of water (of any kind) per day.
Regarding the other types of drinks consumed daily, 4 out of 10 participants drink at least 1 glass of soda per day on average, and sodas are consumed daily by 5 to 6 participants out of 10 in Turkey and Mexico. Sports and energy drinks are consumed daily by 1 out of 5 participants in Mexico, Turkey and China.
Ninety-six percent of people report consuming water all day long on multiple occasions (after sports, while commuting, during meals at home or at a restaurant). Though occasions for drinking water are spread throughout the day, there are habits specific to each country.
• The French (88%) and Italians (92%) often drink water during mealtimes at home, much more than average (74%).
• On average, 1 respondent in 4 often drinks water while driving, though the average rises to more than 1 in 3 in the US.
Water is perceived as a basic physiological need
Drinking water, whether tap or bottled, is first and foremost a question of need for 93% of the respondents but the belief about the number of glasses needed per day differ between countries. Nevertheless, there seems to be a link in the mind of the respondents between the amount of water they think they should drink and the amount of water they consumed. This suggests that the communication on the dietary reference intake for water could impact overall its consumption.
• Turks consider that 8.9 glasses a day is the right quantity of water that an adult needs every day and Italy is close, with 8.5 glasses a day.
• In comparison, for Britons, only 6.1 glasses of water are needed per day.
For some countries, access to water remains an issue to satisfy the need for water: 29% of people say they do not drink tap water because they don’t have access to it — and that number rises to 32% for bottled water.
Bottled water is consumed for health and safety reasons (93%), and because it is perceived natural (91%) and refreshing (89%); convenience is the main reason highlighted by tap water drinkers (88%).
Water is commonly associated with good health
Survey respondents feel that drinking water allows to adopt a healthy lifestyle and to maintain one’s health (94% for both). The respondents believe in water’s benefits to internal body functions: in average, the two main benefits put forward are the actions of water to flush out toxins and to aid in the digestion process even if these actions have not been scientifically demonstrated.
While the healthy benefits of mineral salts are identified as the third benefit to internal body in average, the US and the UK mention it as the last benefit.
The last commonly shared benefit mentioned by the respondents from the countries is that drinking water can prevent headaches while this has not been proven.
Nevertheless, the participants feel less informed about the damaging effects of inadequate hydration (78% well informed) compared to those of an unbalanced diet (84% well informed), especially in the UK, France and China, and unprotected exposure to the sun (83%).
On average, almost 1 out of 4 participants thinks that drinking water is the same as drinking other beverages such as hots drinks, soda or fruit juice. In the UK the percentage rises to 43%, whereas it is only 15% in Italy.
The most credible advocates for water are healthcare practitioners (90%) and scientists (88%). Family also plays a crucial role in promoting water consumption, especially in Mexico, Turkey, China and Italy. Prevention campaigns and schools are also considered credible (both 77%).
Water is declared as a daily habit by all respondents from the countries and it is perceived as strongly associated with health. It is considered as a basic physiological need. Local particularities and knowledge still influence the way people consume water.