India: Indians drinking alcohol up 55% in 20 years
Source: Times of India
Sumitra Deb Roy
May 17, 2015
A global study has found out that alcohol consumption in India has risen by 55% over a period of 20 years. More worryingly, the young are getting initiated to alcohol much earlier, while more women are indulging in hazardous and binge drinking.
The Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) recently published a report examining the economic and health implications of alcohol use among its 34 member and a few non-member countries. Among a list of 40 nations, India got the third position, only after Russian Federation and Estonia, for shooting alcohol intake between 1992 and 2012. Countries that closely followed India were China, Israel and Brazil.
The OECD report said heavy drinking was alarmingly on the rise among youth 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 10 years,” it stated.
The percentage of under-15 boys who haven’t had alcohol went down from 44% to 30%, while for girls it decreased from 50% to 31% in the 2000s. The trend of heavy drinking witnessed among the young of all countries has experts worried. “It can be dangerous and have long-term effects such as habit formation or other chronic conditions,” said hepatologist Dr Aabha Nagral, who consults with Jaslok Hospital.
Binge drinking among the youth has also been associated with increased possibilities of road accidents and disabilities in the report.
Dr P C Gupta, director of Sekhsaria Institute of Public Health, quoted a WHO report which said 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.
The OECD researchers evaluated that drinkers from member states were downing an equivalent of over nine litres of pure alcohol per year, which further rose by a few units if home brewed and illegal stocks were taken into account. “All of this amounts to drinking over 100 bottles of wine, or 200 litres of beer, in a year,” the report stated. Interestingly, Indians featured much lower here as average consumption of pure alcohol hovered around 2.5-3 litres annually.
The findings have set alarm bells ringing within the medical fraternity and health activists who are demanding a national policy to curb alcohol use, which is associated with over 200 ailments of the liver, heart, pancreas, brain, and even causing cancer. The report has pointed out how alcoholism cuts through classes and afflicts a poor man and an affluent woman alike.
Head and neck cancer surgeon Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, who consults with Tata Memorial Hospital said, “Alcohol is causally related to cancers of the mouth, oropharynx, liver, oesophagus and breast. It is appalling that such a toxic and carcinogenic compound is being brazenly advertised and consumed by an ever-increasing number of youngsters without any warning.”
The rapid rise in alcohol consumption is also not without any economic ramifications. A developing nation, for instance, loses around 1% of its annual output due to lost productivity of drunken workers.
The report, without delving much into who drank how much and what, said alcohol practices varied from country to country and depended on culture and practices. Nagral, however, said it was crucial to understand that the previously-followed British Society of Gastroenterology guidelines, which suggested consuming three units a day for men and two units for women as relatively safe, may no longer be the thumb-rule. “The alcohol concentration may vary or the quantities may not be same. More importantly, we have noticed that even with moderate drinking one can develop liver disease over a period of time,” she said. “The fact that alcohol consumption for youngsters or women is no longer a taboo in our society has brought about the big shift in trend,” Nagral said.
A silver lining, though, as stated in the report, is that if users can cut down even one unit of alcohol per week, it can bring about a great difference to the disease graph.