Global Alcohol Consumption Has Risen 70% Since 1990

Global Alcohol Consumption Has Risen 70% Since 1990

In most countries studied, drinkers are drinking more than they used to - alcohol consumption is increasing faster than the number of new drinkers - and the increase is truly staggering in middle-income countries.

A new global study published in The Lancet reveals that the rate of alcohol consumption is steadily increasing among individuals in most regions of the world, and it may not get better any time soon.

Researchers from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Canada, and the Technische Universität in Dresden, Germany, report that the increases are part of a trend that will continue until at least 2030.

Because of the host of conditions and diseases directly related to alcohol, the findings send a clear warning to public health officials in dozens of countries. It also rings bells at the World Health Organization (WHO), which has long cited alcohol as a major factor in its Global Burden of Disease study, and had set a goal for a 25 percent decrease in global harmful alcohol consumption by 2025.

The research reveals that compared to 30 years ago, people are consuming more alcohol than ever. But surprisingly, existing drinkers are drinking more - individual consumption is rising faster than the numbers of new drinkers.

In addition, alcohol consumption has leveled off or even decreased in affluent regions historically noted for heavy drinking, such as Europe, and it is now soaring in low- and middle-income countries.

Global overview

"Our study provides a comprehensive overview of the changing landscape in global alcohol exposure," the researchers said. "Before 1990, most alcohol was consumed in high-income countries, with the highest use levels recorded in Europe. This pattern has changed substantially, with large reductions across Eastern Europe and vast increases in several middle-income countries such as China, India, and Vietnam."

Globally, annual alcohol consumption has increased by as much as 70 percent between 1990 and 2017 - from 20,999 million liters to 35,676 million liters per year. In the United States, alcohol consumption increased from 9.3 liters to 9.8 liters, and in China from 7.1 liters to 7.4 liters. In the United Kingdom, however, it fell from 12.3 liters to 11.4 liters. Across Europe generally, it has decreased by 12 percent, from 11.2 liters to 9.8 liters between 2010 and 2017. However, in Southeast Asian countries alcohol consumption has increased by 34 percent, from 3.5 liters to 4.7 liters.

"This trend is forecast to continue up to 2030 when Europe is no longer predicted to have the highest level of alcohol use," the study authors said. "The growing alcohol market in middle-income countries is estimated to more than outweigh the declining use in high-income countries, resulting in a global increase."

17.6 million in the U.S.

Alcohol statistics show minimal increases in the U.S. recently, but 17.6 million Americans - 1 out of every 12 people - suffer from an alcohol use disorder (AUD), according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD).

NCADD says that 7 million children are living in homes where at least one parent is abusing and dependent on alcohol, or has abused alcohol in the past. And half of all adults in America have some kind of a family history of AUD.

Meanwhile, lead study author Jakob Manthey warns that based on the study data, the WHO's goal of a 10 percent global reduction by 2025 "will not be reached. Instead, alcohol use will remain one of the leading risk factors for the burden of disease for the foreseeable future, and its impact will probably increase, relative to other risk factors."
The researcher said that new and effective alcohol policies "are warranted, especially in rapidly developing countries with growing rates of alcohol use."

The study was funded by Canada's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and the WHO Collaborating Center for Addiction and Mental Health.

We recently reported on an encouraging new trend away from alcohol among our so-called millennial generation here in America. Now that's a trend that we'd love to see blossom into a full-on national movement among all ages.

Realistically, however, for the time being at least, we're staying focused on the role we can play in helping relieve the enormous burden of AUD in this country.

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