Binge Drinking: A Global Issue

Alcohol consumption has become the third leading cause of injury and disease globally

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Having a glass of wine with dinner is not the same as throwing back five rounds in one night. Across the globe, many people don’t drink, but those who do may be drinking too much.

A recent study looked at the rates of alcohol consumption in adults across 241 countries and territories around the world.

Results showed that less than half of adults currently drink alcohol. But of those that consume alcohol, too many may participate in dangerous drinking habits like binge drinking.

The authors said that unhealthy drinking habits have placed alcohol as the third leading cause of global disease and injury.

"Drink alcohol in moderation."

Kevin Shield, doctoral student at the University of Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Canada, led an investigation with fellow scientists from the UK, Germany and Switzerland into alcohol consumption around the world.

For the study, researchers looked at adult drinking patterns in 241 countries and territories across the globe. Data from the World Health Organization (WHO) and other international surveys were collected in 2005.

Overall, the study showed that adults consumed 6.1 liters of alcohol per person each year.

After separating the drinkers from the non-drinkers, the results showed that 46 percent of adults had never consumed alcohol, 13 percent of adults were former drinkers and 41 percent of adults were current drinkers.  

Current drinkers consumed an average of 17.1 liters of alcohol per person, per year.

Where people lived had a lot to do with their drinking patterns. People in North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia had the lowest rates of alcohol consumption.

People in Eastern Europe and Southern sub-Saharan Africa practiced the most unhealthy drinking patterns.

Unhealthy patterns of drinking included drinking until becoming drunk and binge drinking (consuming more than five drinks for men and four for women in one sitting).

Even though 59 percent of adults worldwide do not drink, alcohol was ranked as the third leading cause of disease globally in 2010. High blood pressure and tobacco consumption were the top two leading causes of disease globally.

“Alcohol consumption has been found to cause more than 200 different diseases and injuries. These include not only well-known outcomes of drinking such as liver cirrhosis or traffic accidents, but also several types of cancer, such as female breast cancer,” Shield said.

This study was published in March in Addiction.

No funding information was made available to the public. No conflicts of interest were declared.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 7, 2013
Last Updated:
August 15, 2013