Alcohol consumption in India has increased by a worrying 55% over the last two decades – between 1992 and 2012. India’s per capita consumption is the third highest in the world after the Russian Federation and Estonia, a report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has revealed. Another worrying trend in India is that the average age of initiation to alcohol use has gone from 28 years during the 1980s to 17 years in 2007.
In contrast, the average annual alcohol consumption among the 34 member countries of the OECD has fallen by 2.5% over the same period. OECD’s report examines the economic and public health impact of alcohol use, the fifth leading cause of death and disability worldwide.
The report stated that emerging economies such as India, China and Brazil have also seen a major increase in alcohol consumption.
In India, alcohol abuse results in huge annual losses because of alcohol-related problems at workplaces. Also, nearly 25% of road accidents are caused by those under the influence of alcohol. According to the report, despite a slight decline, on average, in the past 20 years, alcohol consumption in OECD countries remains above the world average.
“More than two in three children have drunk alcohol by age 15 in OECD countries, and two in five have been drunk at least once. Girls have caught up with boys in the past ten years,” the report stated.
Experts said alcohol abuse was a contributing factor in more than 60 major types of diseases – majorly including several types of cancer, haemorrhagic stroke and hypertensive heart disease, cardiovascular diseases and liver cirrhosis.
“Alcohol is causally related to cancers of the mouth, oropharynx, liver, oesophagus and breast. It is sad that such a toxic and carcinogenic compound is being brazenly advertised and consumed by an increasing number of youngsters without any warning," said Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, oncologist at Tata Memorial Hospital (TMH).
“The rapid rise in alcohol consumption is an alarming statistic for public health. So far, alcohol has not been considered a public health problem and no alcohol control policies are in place from the public health point of view,” Dr Chaturvedi said.
* Alcohol consumption by adults in OECD countries is estimated at an average of around 10 litres of pure alcohol per person each year, equivalent to more than 100 bottles of wine
* Overall, less educated men are more likely to indulge in heavy drinking while the opposite is true for women where the better educated are more prone to heavy drinking
* Alcohol abuse ranks as one of the leading causes of death and disability, killing more people worldwide than HIV/AIDS, violence and tuberculosis combined
* An analysis of the impact of alcohol abuse prevention policies in Canada, Czech Republic and Germany reveals that taking action can reduce rates of heavy drinking and alcohol dependence by five to 10%.