08 Febrero 2017 15:57
According to this report from the World Health Organization, people in Latin America and the Caribbean consume 8.4 litres of pure alcohol each year – a total that exceeds the global average by 2.2 litres. And the country that tops the regional charts, with 9.6 litres of alcohol consumed per capita, is Chile.
Argentina is in second place with 9.3 litres, while Venezuela takes the third spot with 8.9 litres. These are followed by Paraguay (8.8), Brazil (8.7), Peru (8.1), Panama (8), Uruguay (7.6), Ecuador (7.2), Mexico (7.2), Dominican Republic (6.9), Colombia (6.2), Bolivia (5.9), Costa Rica (5.4), Cuba (5.2), Nicaragua (5), Honduras (4), Guatemala (3.8) and El Salvador (3.2).
Latin Americans' favourite alcoholic beverage is beer, which makes up 55% of the total alcohol consumed. Next come spirits, like vodka and whisky, which total up to 30%. Wine, meanwhile, comes in at a comparatively modest 12%.
Maristela Monteiro from the Mental Health and Substance Dependence Department at the World Health Organization told the BBC that the results of this 2015 study suggest that 'economic development and new values as a result of globalization are making excessive consumption and binge drinking a trend.'
Between 2005 and 2010, the number of adult males who imbibed between four and five drinks in one sitting at least once a month went from 18% to 30%. In women, this number rose from 4.6% to 13%.
What is even more worrying is that just 10% of drinkers in Latin America and the Caribbean imbibe more than 40% of the total alcohol consumed in the region – a figure that suggests a serious problem with alcoholism.
'People don't generally seem to have a habit of imbibing moderate amounts for pleasure or health purposes – like drinking a glass of wine with a meal. Instead, consumption appears to revolve around binge drinking, especially among young people, who see it as a rite of social prestige.'
The potentially fatal consequences of drinking to excess is written in the statistics: 300,000 people died in 2012 because of alcohol consumption, while 80,000 would not have died if alcohol hadn't been present in their lives. Not surprisingly, alcohol is the main risk factor for death among adolescents. In 2010, 14,000 teenagers died due to alcohol.
According to the WHO, alcohol is present in the causes of over 200 illnesses and injuries, and can negatively impact the organs, the defenses and the mind. In addition, as Monteiro points out; alcohol doesn't only affect the drinker: 'It can provoke violence and traffic accidents, as well as decreasing people's productivity at work.'
She also draws attention to the growth of the alcohol industry and its power over governments. Monteiro says, 'the pressure made by the industry on local governments is considerable, so alcohol prices remain low and unregulated.'
She goes on to suggest a series of measures for tackling the problem: raising taxes on alcohol; limiting the times and days it can be sold; increasing the minimum legal age of consumption; reducing or prohibiting advertising; setting a limit on blood alcohol level for drivers; and educating people to try and counteract the social prestige attached to binge drinking.