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India’s alcohol deaths are higher than China; per capita consumption is set to rise: WHO

On policy measures, the report found no Indian data related to health warnings on the labels for pregnancy, underage drinking, drunk driving and cancer. There is also no Indian data on displaying consumer information on containers.
Last Updated : 25 June 2024, 16:35 IST

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New Delhi: India’s alcohol death rates are more than double than that of China, says a new report from the World Health Organisation, which projects a steep rise in India’s per capita alcohol consumption over the next six years despite the intoxicant being a major risk factor for poor health and social harm.

India’s alcohol-attributable deaths per 100,000 population stands at 38.5 (both sexes) as against China’s 16.1. The numbers rose sharply for Indian males (63.0) compared to China’s 29.6 whereas for Indian females it is 13.5 as against China’s 3.3.

Alcohol induced morbidity in India too is more than twice than that of the communist country with men suffering from such disorders five times more as compared to women. A similar trend has been seen globally.

The WHO report that captures the global scenario on alcohol and substance abuse, notes that over 31 per cent Indians are current drinkers, but the male population (40.9 per cent) outstrips the females (20.8 per cent) by a tall margin.

"Substance use severely harms individual health, increasing the risk of chronic diseases, mental health conditions, and tragically resulting in millions of preventable deaths every year. It places a heavy burden on families and communities, increasing exposure to accidents, injuries, and violence," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director general said in a media statement.

India’s per capita consumption in 2019 stands at 4.9 litres, which is projected to rise to 6.7 litres by 2030. In comparison, the global per capita consumption stands at 5.5 litres with the European region topping the chart at 9.2 litres followed by the Americas (7.5 lit).

The report from the UN health agency comes two years after the National Family Health Survey 5 – India’s biggest public health survey capturing data from over six lakh households – reported that 19 per cent of men and 1 per cent women over 15 years drink alcohol.

The WHO report notes a tendency of binge drinking among Indian teenagers between 15-19 years with 7.1 per cent of male youngsters resorting to heavy episodic drinking as against 5.2 per cent females.

Among the current drinkers in the same age group, 13.9 per cent are male as against 11.4 per cent females. The WHO numbers are higher than NFHS-5, which on the basis of a massive household survey put the number at 1.9 per cent among men and 0.3 per cent among women in the 15-19 years age group.

The WHO report highlights that despite some reduction in the alcohol-related death rates since 2010, the overall number of deaths due to alcohol consumption remains unacceptably high and amounts to 2.6 million globally in 2019.

The death rates due to alcohol consumption per litre of alcohol consumed are the highest in low-income countries and lowest in high-income countries.

On policy measures, the report found no Indian data related to health warnings on the labels for pregnancy, underage drinking, drunk driving and cancer. There is also no Indian data on displaying consumer information on containers.

Globally the main causes of alcohol-attributable deaths among males were digestive diseases, unintentional injuries and malignant cancer. Among females, the primary causes of alcohol-attributable deaths were cardiovascular diseases, digestive diseases and unintentional injuries. The alcohol-attributable disease burden is heaviest among males.

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Published 25 June 2024, 16:35 IST

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