The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in its first probe into alcohol abuse reported that binge drinking is emerging as a major hazard for the young in some countries.
Over the past 20 years, alcohol consumption in OECD countries have declined by 2.5 percent on average, the 34-nation club of rich economies said. But this figure masks important national changes and a worrying shift in some countries towards youth boozing and excessive drinking by women, it said. In 2012, the average per-capita consumption in the OECD was 9.1 liters (16 pints) of pure alcohol per capita, it said.
Estonia, Austria and France had the highest consumption, with 12 liters or more per person per year. South Korea, the United States and Canada were below the OECD average, while the lowest on the list were Israel and Turkey.
Within the broad overall decline, "many countries have experienced a significant increase in some risky drinking behaviors," the report said. It cited binge drinking among young people and alcohol abuse by women.
"These trends are worrying because some of the harms typically associated with heavy drinking in young age, such as traffic accidents and violence, often affect people other than drinkers themselves," said the report. "Heavy drinking at a young age is associated with an increased risk of acute and chronic conditions. It is also associated with problem drinking later on in life, and people who are successful in the labor market may see their long-term career prospects jeopardized."
The biggest surge in youth drinking was seen in Russia, followed by Estonia, and then India and China, which like Russia, have partnership status with the OECD and were included in part of the analysis.
The binge-drinking phenomenon appears to have several causes, the OECD said. They include access to relatively cheap drink, but also the pitching of alcoholic beverages to a youth market, promoted with music and a partying message.