The consumption of alcohol decreases or stagnates in rich countries, but tends to increase in countries whose standard of living grows, such as India and China, which compromises the fight against its health ravages, according to a study.
This “change of landscape” should encourage affected countries to adopt measures that have proved effective elsewhere, such as “the increase of fees, a restriction of availability and the prohibition of marketing and advertising for alcohol”, argue the authors of the study, published on Wednesday in the British medical journal The Lancet.
Alcohol represents “a major risk factor” in the appearance of many diseases, as well as the appearance of injuries and accidents, they recall.
Every adult in the world consumed an average of 6.5 liters of pure alcohol in 2017, compared to 5.9 liters in 1990, and this amount should reach 7.6 liters by 2030, according to the estimates established from the data of 189 countries.
Currently, the highest per capita consumption in the world is concentrated in Europe, but it is decreasing (-20% in 27 years, to 9.8 liters per inhabitant), especially due to the clear decline in some former Soviet republics and European countries in the region. East.
On the contrary
There is a phenomenon of rise in countries with middle incomes such as China, India and Vietnam, supported by “economic transitions and the growth of wealth”. These three countries now have “higher levels of consumption than some European countries” (7.4 liters, 5.9 liters, and 8.9 liters), the article abounds.
Across Southeast Asia, average consumption doubled between 1990 and 2017 to 4.7 liters per capita. In the “Western Pacific” region, which includes mainly China, Japan and Australia, it grew by 54%.
The level of registered alcohol intake remains stable and very limited in North Africa and the Middle East (less than one liter per adult and per year).
Alcohol consumption has traditionally been lower in South America than in North American countries, according to the study, which indicates that in the last thirteen years relatively stable trends have been observed in regions of the Americas.
Strict restrictions on advertising
The customs vary according to sex globally. Men consumed an average of 9.8 liters of pure alcohol in 2017, compared to only 2.7 liters ingested by women. This gap “should decrease slightly” by 2030, the researchers point out.
Although today a majority of the world population (53%) does not drink alcohol regularly, “estimates indicate that by 2030 half of adults will drink alcohol” at least once a year.
In addition, about a quarter (23%) will experience mass alcoholism (at least six standard drinks on one occasion, ie at least 60g of pure alcohol) at least once a month. In 2017 it was 20% and in 1990 18.5%, says the text.
A trend that runs counter to the goal of the World Health Organization (WHO) to reduce 10% by 2025 the “harmful consumption of alcohol”, warns Jakob Manthey, a researcher in clinical psychology at the Technical University of Dresden, lead author of the study.
The health burden linked to the drink will “probably increase compared to other risk factors,” he says.
Measures such as rising sales prices and control of distribution, which proved effective in rich countries, could instead be less satisfactory in countries where much of the consumption comes through unofficial circuits, warns Sarah Callinan of the Center for Alcohol Policy Research at La Trobe University in Melbourne (Australia).
It also recommends, in an independent commentary on the study, to insist on “strict restrictions on advertising and other promotional activities”, as well as on “rigorous measures against alcohol and driving”.
The harmful intake of alcohol causes 3,000 million deaths a year, men in more than three quarters, according to the WHO. This count includes people killed in traffic accidents or violence linked to alcohol consumption.
Alcohol also causes a high risk of developing numerous diseases, such as digestive and cardiovascular pathologies as well as some cancers.