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WHO Study on Alcohol Consumption Obsolete

Posted: Monday, 14 February 2011 12:35

WHO Study on Alcohol Consumption Obsolete

The recent findings of the global status report on alcohol and health by the World Health Organisation, analyzing alcohol consumption in over 100 countries, that hard liquor accounts for 88% of alcohol consumed in India with beer taking 10% share, wine being an optimistic 2%, seem to be skewed or at least outdated, opines Subhash Arora.

An average Indian adult over 15 years old drank 2.6 liters of ‘pure alcohol’ during 2003-05. This was higher than the per capita consumption in the south-east Asia region which stood at 2.2 liters according to TOI which does not define the specifics of pure alcohol. The report has analyzed alcohol consumption in over 100 countries.

The drinking pattern in India merited the score of 3 out of a possible highest 5 according to W.H.O. ratings in which higher score indicated greater alcohol attributed reason for disease in a country.

The study seems to be based on the statistics of 2003-5 when the wine was not really on the radar of Indian alcohol consumption, yet it gets a 2 % share which appears to be too high, despite the availability of cheap wines like Bosca, Golconda and the Goan ‘Ports’-fortified wines, with Riviera from Chateau Indage being the leading Indian brand. With an almost consistent annual growth of 25-35% wine currently still remains at a miniscule under-0.5%.

India consumes about 150 million cases of liquor including whiskey. Another 200 million are attributed to country liquor and the allegedly unaccounted quantity (allegedly smuggled out of the distilleries though vehemently denied by the distilleries and government officials alike). At best 1.5 million cases of wine are being consumed, helped by the unprecedented growth during the last 5-6 years, the crushing dip during recession of 2009-10 notwithstanding.    

The report says that India saw a robust increase in recorded adult per capita consumption of alcohol. Amongst drinkers, the average per capita consumption of alcohol of an adult, taken as 15-year-old and above (ironically the legal age in India varies from 21 in Maharashtra to 25 in Delhi) was 22.25 liters during the study. Men drank much higher quantities of alcohol, at 23.93 liters compared to 10.35 liters among women.

The harmful effects of alcohol are also documented in the WHO report. Alcohol use results in the death of 2.5 million people annually. Most alcohol-related deaths are caused by injuries, cancer, cardiovascular diseases and liver cirrhosis. Globally, 6.2% of all male deaths are related to alcohol, compared to 1.1% for females. Worldwide, 320,000 persons in the age group of 15-29 years die annually from alcohol-related causes, resulting in 9% of all deaths in that age group.

A recent study in the medical journal `Lancet' indicates that alcohol raises the risk of as many as 60 different diseases. According to the WHO report, men outnumber women four to one in weekly episodes of binge drinking which is the most probable cause of higher death and disability rates.

According to the report, nearly 62.5 million people in India drink alcohol with per capita consumption being around four liters per adult per year- no study was apparently done on the number of people drinking only wine. For every six men, one woman drank alcohol in India during the study. Over 40% of road accidents in India occur during night, with a third of them being due to drunken driving.


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