Alcohol consumption in wealthy, developed countries has declined over the past two decades, but dangerous binge drinking has increased among the young, according to a new study released Tuesday.
The 34-nation Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development says average annual alcohol consumption in its member countries has fallen 2.5 per cent over the past 20 years to 9.1 litres of pure alcohol per capita.
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But that overall trend hides a dangerous increase in hazardous drinking by young people, the OECD says, as measured by both the amount and the rate that alcohol is consumed.
The OECD warned that binge drinking by the young is a "major public health and social concern," with children taking up drinking at increasingly earlier ages. Harmful consumption of alcohol now accounts for a higher proportion of deaths worldwide than HIV, AIDS, violence and tuberculosis combined, the report said.
Among boys aged 15 and younger, the proportion who have been drunk rose to 43 per cent from 30 per cent during the 2000s, while for girls the share rose to 41 per cent from 26 per cent, the OECD said.
Regular binge drinking by young adults, usually defined as consuming five or more drinks on one occasion once a week, has risen among both men and women in Canada, Germany and Italy over the past 20 years, the OECD said, and has also risen among French men and New Zealand women.
Rates of binge drinking fell over that period in England and Ireland, the OECD said.
The study also noted that while Estonia, Austria and France had the highest rates of alcohol consumption at more than 12 litres per capita annually, consumption has dropped in Austria and France. In Estonia, it has continued to rise, up nearly 60 per cent between 1992 and 2012.
The OECD advises governments on economic growth.