Global Alcohol Consumption Significantly Increased Since 1990 and is Forecasted to Further Rise by 2030

The global rate of alcohol consumption markedly increased by 70% from 1990 to 2017, and is projected to rise 17% by 2030, according to a study published in The Lancet. 

Alcohol use is not only a major risk factor for burden of disease, it also correlates to a litany of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and injuries. As such, monitoring of alcohol use is the priority of several international health initiatives, including the world health organization’s (WHO’s) Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs 2013-2020, which aims to achieve a 10% reduction in harmful alcohol consumption by 2025. 

In this study, researchers assessed adult alcohol consumption reported yearly based on country-validated data through 2016. They forecasted 2030 consumption rates using multivariate log-normal mixture Poisson distribution models. Both prevalence of lifetime abstinence and current drinking rates were ascertained from Dirichlet regressions using survey data aggregated from 149 countries. Moreover, the researchers used fractional response regressions, using data obtained from 118 countries, to estimate the prevalence of heavy episodic drinking, which according to the researchers, is important to consider, because the attributable burden is affected by whether an amount of alcohol is consumed in small doses over time or in larger doses on a few occasions.” 

A Dangerous Upward Trend 

Results of the study indicate an augmented global rate of alcohol consumption, showing that between 1990 and 2017, global adult per-capita consumption increased from 5·9 L (95% CI, 5·8 to 6·1) to 6·5 L (6·0 to 6·9), and is projected to rise by 17% and reach 7·6 L (6·5 to 10·2) by 2030. The results also suggest a moderate reduction in the global prevalence of lifetime abstinence, which decreased from 46% (42–49) in 1990 to 43% (40–46) in 2017, while the prevalence of current drinking rose from 45% (41–48) in 1990 to 47% (44–50) in 2017. The researchers “forecast both trends to continue, with abstinence dropping to 40% (37–44) by 2030 (annualized 0·2% decrease) and the proportion of current drinkers increasing to 50% (46–53) by 2030 (annualized 0·2% increase). Moreover, in 2017, 20% (17–24) of adults were heavy episodic drinkers juxtaposed to 1990 when it was estimated at 18.5% [15.3–21.6%], and this prevalence of heavy drinking is expected to continue on an upward trajectory, as the researchers forecast an increase of 23% (19–27) by 2030. 

Based on our data, WHO’s aim of reducing the harmful use of alcohol by 10% by 2025 will not be reached globally,” the study’s authors wrote. 

Instead, alcohol use will remain one of the leading risk factors for the burden of disease for the foreseeable future, and its impact will probably increase relative to other risk factors. Implementation of effective alcohol policies is warranted, especially in rapidly developing countries with growing rates of alcohol use.