Men in developed countries face a more than one-in-five risk of alcohol dependence or abuse in the course of their life, according to a review published online on Monday by the British health journal The Lancet.
For women, the risk is put at 10 percent or less.
The problem is "common in all developed countries," where as many as 80 percent of men and 60 percent of women drink at some time during their lives, according to the study, authored by Marc Schuckit of the University of California at San Diego.
In developing countries, rates of the disorder are "lower, but still substantial," it warns.
The period of heaviest drinking is usually between 18 and 20, and alcohol abuse and dependence often begin in the early to mid-20s.