May 09, 2019
2 min read

Alcohol consumption expected to keep increasing globally

You've successfully added to your alerts. You will receive an email when new content is published.

Click Here to Manage Email Alerts

We were unable to process your request. Please try again later. If you continue to have this issue please contact

Image of Jürgen Rehm
Jürgen Rehm

The global per-capita consumption of alcohol among adults has increased between 1990 and 2017 and is projected to keep increasing until 2030, data published in The Lancet showed.

Based on these forecasted trends, the global targets to reduce harmful alcohol use by 10% by 2025 set by WHO will not be achieved, according to the researchers.

“If the community of nations via U.N. or WHO decides to set targets in health and health care, such as a 10% reduction in the harmful use of alcohol, it is very important to monitor whether we are on track to reach these targets,” Jürgen Rehm, PhD, from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Canada, and senior scientist at PAHO/WHO Collaborating Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, told Healio Psychiatry.

To evaluate the progress in achieving global noncommunicable disease goals, Rehm and colleagues reported the most recent data on the main indicators of alcohol exposure for 189 countries from 1990 to 2017 and predictions until 2030.

“This research is the most thorough to date to provide feedback on the WHO and U.N. targets,” Rehm said. “It provides U.N. and WHO with the necessary information to correct actions to reach their goals.”

Using country-validated data up to 2016, the researchers estimated alcohol per-capita consumption, defined as the consumption in liters of pure alcohol per adult in a given year. Indicators of drinking status included: lifetime abstention, former alcohol use (not in the last year) and current drinking (any alcohol use in the last year). They also estimated the prevalence of heavy episodic drinking and used multivariate log-normal mixture Poisson distribution models to determine forecasted estimates up to 2030.

Overall, the per-capita consumption of alcohol among adults rose worldwide from 5.9 L (95% CI, 5.8-6.1) to 6.5 L (95% CI, 6-6.9) between 1990 and 2017. By 2030, Rehm and colleague estimate that the alcohol per-capita consumption will rise by 17%, reaching 7.6 L (95% CI, 6.5-10.2). In addition, the total volume of alcohol consumed has increased by 70% (95% CI, 59-82) from 1990 (20,999 million L) to 2017 (35,676 million L).

Although per-capita consumption decreased by 20% in the European region, it increased in the Southeast Asia region by 104% and the Western Pacific region by 54% from 1990 to 2017, according to the findings.

“The forecasted global increase in alcohol use can be attributed to increases in economic wealth in low-income and middle-income countries, which was one of the predictors of our model,” Rehm and colleagues wrote.

The global prevalence of lifetime abstinence declined from 46% (95% CI, 42-49) in 1990 to 43% (95% CI, 40-46) in 2017; however, the prevalence of current drinking rose from 45% (95% CI, 41-48) to 47% (95% CI, 44-50). The researchers expect both trends to continue, with lifetime abstinence dropping to 40% (annualized 0.2% decrease) and the percentage of current drinkers rising to 50% (annualized 0.2% increase) by 2030.

The number of heavy episodic drinkers also rose from an estimated 18.5% of adults in 1990 to 20% in 2017, and this prevalence is projected to rise to 23% by 2030, the data showed.

“There are effective ways to reduce consumption of alcohol and alcohol-attributable disease burden,” Rehm told Healio Psychiatry.

“Within the primary health care system, clinicians could screen for alcohol use, and based on the results of the screening, people could be encouraged to keep up their abstinence or low-risk drinking, could get brief advice or brief interventions to reduce their consumption, or could be referred to alcohol use disorders treatment,” he continued. “Within the primary and specialized health care systems, therapies for alcohol use disorder should be offered to those in need.” – by Savannah Demko

Disclosure: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.