Alcohol is an element of human society that dates back at least to the Neolithic, as much beloved as it is vilified, for reasons largely unchanged over time. What you drink, how much you drink, who drinks and where you drink are all dimensions of alcohol consumption, greatly influenced by factors such as culture, economy and social norms.
- Overall, per capita alcohol consumption in OECD countries decreased over the period covered by the OECD study, but within this general trend, some countries experienced an increase in consumption, while others saw a decrease.
- However, many countries have seen a significant increase in certain risky alcohol consumption behaviors (such as binge drinking or episodic excessive drinking), particularly among young people and women.
- Emerging economies also experience a significant relative increase in alcohol consumption, despite lower initial reference levels of consumption.
These trends are worrying because some of the harms routinely associated with excessive alcohol consumption at a young age, such as car accidents and violence, often affect people who do not drink alcohol and represent an important dimension of the burden of alcohol-related disease.
Heavy alcohol consumption at a young age
Excessive alcohol consumption at a young age is also associated with an alcohol addiction problem that manifests later in time, and people who have successfully entered the job market could jeopardize their long-term career prospects.
- In most cases, its impact is harmful, in some cases it is beneficial. For a minority of alcohol drinkers, especially older men who drink moderately, the health benefits are more important.
- At the level of the general population, harmful effects on health prevail in absolute terms in all countries worldwide.
- Harmful use of alcohol is generally determined by individual choice but its consequences affect society.
The harm to people who do not consume alcohol, in particular the victims of road accidents and violence, but also children born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) are the most visible dimension of these consequences for the society.
Costs related to health care and crime
Lost productivity, are other important aspects of the harms that result from excessive alcohol consumption.
These costs are a strong motivation for government action to combat the harmful use of alcohol.
The public health consequences of harmful use of alcohol are a major concern, as alcohol is a leading cause of mortality and disability worldwide. According to OECD estimates, about four out of five alcohol users could reduce their risk of mortality from any cause without distinction by reducing the amount of alcohol consumed by one unit per week.
- Consequently, there is ample room for maneuver to improve the well-being of alcohol drinkers and society as a whole.
- The facts that demonstrate the risks associated with the harmful use of alcohol and the effectiveness of numerous intervention options to deal with such damage have never been so abundant and detailed.