The health burden related to excessive alcohol
consumption, both in terms of morbidity and mortality, is considerable in most parts
of the world. High alcohol intake is associated with numerous harmful health and
social consequences, such as increased risk of heart, stroke and vascular diseases, as
well as liver cirrhosis and certain cancers. Foetal exposure to alcohol increases the
risk of birth defects and intellectual impairments. Alcohol also contributes to death
and disability through accidents injuries, assault, violence, homicide and suicide. It
is estimated to cause more than 2 million deaths worldwide per year. In the Russian
Federation, the sharp rise in premature mortality and decline in life expectancy
during the 1990s was due, in part, to excessive alcohol consumption.
In 2010, the World Health Organization endorsed a
global strategy to combat the harmful use of alcohol, through direct measures such as
medical services for alcohol-related health problems, and indirect measures such as
policy options for the availability, marketing and pricing of alcohol.
Alcohol consumption is defined as annual sales of
pure alcohol in litres per person aged 15 years and over.
The methodology to convert alcoholic drinks to pure
alcohol may differ across countries. Official statistics do not include unrecorded
alcohol consumption, such as home production. Italy reports consumption for the
population 14 years and over, Sweden for 16 years and over, and for Japan 20 years and
over. In some countries (e.g. Luxembourg), national
sales do not accurately reflect actual consumption by residents, since purchases by
non-residents may create a significant gap between national sales and consumption.
Although adult alcohol consumption per capita gives
useful evidence of long-term trends, it does not identify sub-populations at risk from
harmful drinking patterns. The consumption of large quantities of alcohol at a single
session, termed “binge drinking”, is a particularly dangerous pattern of consumption,
which is on the rise in some countries and social groups, especially among young
Alcohol consumption as measured by annual
sales stands at 9.1 litres per adult on average across OECD countries, using the
most recent data available. France, Austria, Portugal, the Czech Republic and
Estonia reported the highest consumption of alcohol, with 12.0 litres or more per
adult per year in 2009. Low alcohol consumption was recorded in Indonesia, India,
Turkey and Israel where religious and cultural traditions restrict the use of
alcohol among some population groups, as well as in China, Mexico and some of the
Nordic countries (Norway, Iceland and Sweden).
Although average alcohol consumption has
gradually fallen in many OECD countries over the past three decades, it has risen
in some others such as Iceland, Finland and Mexico. There has been a degree of
convergence in drinking habits across OECD countries, with wine consumption
increasing in many traditional beer-drinking countries and vice versa. The traditional wine-producing countries of Italy,
France and Spain, as well as the Slovak Republic and Germany have seen per capita
consumption fall by one third or more since 1980. Alcohol consumption in the
Russian Federation, as well as in Brazil and China has risen substantially,
although in the latter two countries per capita consumption is still low.
Variations in alcohol consumption across
countries and over time reflect not only changing drinking habits but also the
policy responses to control alcohol use. Curbs on advertising, sales restrictions
and taxation have all proven to be effective measures to reduce alcohol
consumption. Strict controls on sales and high taxation are mirrored by overall
lower consumption in most Nordic countries, while falls in consumption in France,
Italy and Spain may also be associated with the voluntary and statutory regulation
of advertising, following a 1989 European directive.
OECD (2011), Consumption Tax
Trends 2010: VAT/GST and Excise Rates, Trends and Administration
Issues, OECD Publishing.
OECD (2010), Drugs and
Driving: Detection and Deterrence, OECD Publishing.
Huerta, M. and F.
Borgonovi (2010), “Education, Alcohol Use and Abuse Among Young Adults in
Britain”, OECD Education Working Papers,
|Indicator in PDF
|Alcohol consumption among population aged 15 and
|Change in alcohol consumption in litres per
capita among population aged 15 and over
|Trends in alcohol consumption among population
aged 15 and over