Alcoholism increasing in Indian adolescents: Study

Alcoholism increasing in Indian adolescents: Study

Proportion of men who started drinking in their teens surged 4 -fold

Alcoholism increasing in Indian adolescents: Study

Teenage boys in India are increasingly taking to alcohol, risking their lives, health and social behaviour, found a new study.

Analysing the alcohol consumption pattern in adolescents, public health researchers from India and abroad found that the proportion of men who start drinking alcohol in their teens surged nearly four-fold in the past few decades in India.

While 19.5 per cent of those born between 1956-60 picked up the drinking habit at an adolescent stage, the number jumps by nearly four per cent – 74.3 per cent – for those who were born between 1981 and 1985.

As the data was collected in 2005, it provides a comparison between men in their 40s vis-a-vis those in their 20s.

Consistent with previous studies from high-income countries, the new research found initiation to alcohol in the teenage years is associated with a greater likelihood of developing lifetime alcohol dependence, hazardous or harmful drinking, alcohol related injuries, and psychological distress in adulthood.

“As accidents and suicides are the two leading causes of death among the teens, alcohol has a role. The earlier is the initiation, the greater is the risk,” Vikram Patel, one of the authors of the study from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine told Deccan Herald.

Teen drinkers were more than twice as likely to be distressed and alcohol dependent as those who did not start drinking early in life. They were three times more likely to have sustained injuries as a result of their drinking.

Because of the sensitive nature of adolescent brains, there is a restriction on underage drinking in the developed world. In the US, the cut-off age is 21 years while in India, the age varies between 18 and 25 years depending on the state.

Carried out on 1,899 men from rural and urban communities in north Goa, the study has appeared in the Journal of Epidemiology and Clinical Health.

In India, alcohol consumption and its harmful effects are emerging as a public health problem, say the authors, who suggest that the trend is “alarming.” The initiation happens in the early twenties as several previous studies have demonstrated.

Other members of the team comprise public health researchers from Columbia University, University of California, Public Health Institute California and a Goa-based NGO Sangath.

The usual pattern of alcohol use in India is heavy drinking of spirits and drinking to intoxication. The proportion of hazardous users among current drinkers is greater than high income countries.