On Wednesday, May 8, a study on global alcohol consumption showed that alcohol intake has increased in India by 38%. Published in a renowned medical journal called The Lancet, the report showed that alcohol consumption increased between 1990 and 2017 and is predicted to keep rising until 2030.
The study was commissioned by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Centre for Addiction and Mental Health; it evaluates alcohol consumption in 189 countries between 1990 and 2017. It also makes predictions for alcohol consumption trends until 2030.
In India, alcohol consumption increased by 38%; this means adults in the country now consume 5.9 litres per year as of 2017 from 4.3 litres in 2010.
Among the countries that were surveyed, Moldova has the highest alcohol intake with 15 litres per capita, while Kuwait has the lowest with 0.005 litres per capita.
On alcohol consumption
The Lancet report found that, between 1990 and 2017, the global average of alcohol consumption per adult increased from 5.9 litres to 6.5 litres. By 2030, this average is expected to rise to 7.6 litres.
Global lifetime abstinence from alcohol also decreased from 46% in 1990 to 43% in 2017. The report says this is not a significant reduction but does display a trend of reduced abstinence that will likely dip to 40% in 2030.
Due to an increasing population, the total volume of alcohol consumed is up by 70% since 1990.The report also found that by 2030, half of all adults in the world will consume alcohol and about 23% will binge drink once every month.
India, Myanmar, and Vietnam increased intake, while Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia reduced it. Countries in Africa, the Americas, and around the Mediterranean logged stable levels of drinking.
Alcohol is a leading global disease, and reducing exposure to alcohol will help curb non-communicable diseases, says the report.
Why Indians drink so much alcohol
The report says that alcohol intake is increasing in lower- and middle-income countries like India and reducing or holding stable in higher income countries like the US and China.
“Before 1990, most alcohol was consumed in high-income countries, with the highest use levels recorded in Europe… However, 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,” said Jakob Manthey, an author of the study.
Manthey also said that rising incomes contribute to alcohol consumption because people can afford to drink. Attractive ad campaigning also plays a part in driving alcohol sale and consumption.
Moreover, poor regulation of liquor consumption and lack of awareness on alcohol-related issues make it easier for people to increase their drinking. Evidence of this is present in the hooch-related deaths in India.
In February, over 75 people died in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand after consuming bootleg alcohol, an extremely cheap concoction made with dangerous substances like methanol and battery acid that is sold for merely Rs 10 to Rs 30.
In the ’80s and ’90s, 308 people in Bengaluru and 200 in Cuttack died after consuming spurious liquor. Gujarat, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu saw 300 alcohol-related deaths between 2008 and 2009. Even as recently as 2011, 156 people died in West Bengal from drinking hooch.
The Hindustan Times adds that relaxed social norms allow demographics that did not drink much before to indulge, like women. It also explains that increase in life expectancy also pushes up the volume of liquor consumed by a country.
A number of solutions that stop short of prohibition can help curb alcohol consumption. Enforcing restricted sale times, increasing alcohol prices, and reducing or banning alcohol marketing are some policies already adopted by countries like Russia.
Increasing healthcare facilities and awareness, establishing a price floor for alcohol, and ensuring the law is enforced can also curb consumption of hooch in rural areas.
Rhea Arora is a Staff Writer at Qrius.