During 1992-2012, the per capita consumption of alcohol in India has increased by whopping 55%, the third highest increase in the world, after Russian Federation and Estonia. This is revealed in the report of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released on May 12 this year. Contrary to this, average annual alcohol consumption among 34 member countries of OECD has fallen by 2.5 percent over the same period.
OECD’s new flagship report examines the economic and public health dimensions of harmful alcohol use, the fifth leading cause of death and disability worldwide. Despite a slight decline, on average, in the past 20 years, alcohol consumption in OECD countries remains well above the world average. Heavy drinking is alarmingly on the rise among young people and women in many countries. An increasing proportion of children experience alcohol and drunkenness at early ages. Girls have caught up with boys in the past ten years.
Heavy drinking is associated with a weaker probability of employment, more absence from work, as well as lower productivity and wages. The overall value of production lost to harmful alcohol use is estimated in the region of 1% of GDP in high- and middle-income countries.
Alcohol abuse is a major public health problem globally. It is a causal factor in more than 60 major types of diseases; these majorly include several types of cancer, hemorrhagic stroke and hypertensive heart disease, cardiovascular diseases, liver cirrhosis and neuropsychiatric diseases. Dr P.C. Gupta, Director, Sekhsaria Institute of Public Health said – “In the Mumbai Cohort Study of 35,102 men aged 45 years and older followed-up for 5 years conducted by Healis, alcohol consumption caused increased risk of mortality from several types of cancers, heart disease, liver cirrhosis. The study also demonstrated that the risk multiplies when alcohol is consumed along with tobacco another lethal consumer product easily available.”
Globally, alcohol consumption results in approximately 3.3 million deaths each year (WHO Global Status Report on alcohol and health, 2014). It is the third largest risk factor for disease and disability in the world. In 2010 it was responsible for 4.9 million deaths and 5.5% of the total DALYs lost worldwide, according to Lancet’s Global Disease Burden study. Since it is a leading risk factor for death among the economically and socially productive age group of 15-49 year old men, it has grave implications in terms of a society’s over all development.
According to WHO, about 30% of Indians consume alcohol, out of which 4-13% are daily consumers and up to 50% of these, fall under the category of hazardous drinking. Another worrying trend from India is that the average age of initiation of alcohol use has reduced from 28 years during the 1980s to 17 years in 2007. In India alcohol abuse also amounts to huge annual losses due to alcohol-related problems in work places. Nearly 25% of the road accidents are under the influence of alcohol and it is also a significant risk factor for increased domestic violence.
Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, Oncologist at Tata Memorial Hospital said –“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 ever increasing number of youngsters without any warning. The rapid rise in alcohol consumption is an alarming statistic for public health. So far alcohol has not been considered as a public health problem and no alcohol control policies are in place from public health point of view. These reports and studies clearly underline the need for a comprehensive national policy on alcohol control.”