Alcohol consumption in Latin America is low compared to Europe and the US and averages 5.5 litres of pure alcohol per year per capita, although with marked differences between countries and gender. In Europe consumption is estimated at 13 litres of pure alcohol while in the US the average in 9.8 litres.
The report released this week is based on national surveys and polls in nine Latin American countries and not only includes what percentage of the population consumes alcohol but also when, what and how. The study is considered a first time approach to the issue.
“These areas have not been much explored even in developed countries despite its social significance and which everybody acknowledges”, said Carlos Sojo the sociologist responsible for the investigation from FLASCO Latin American faculty of social sciences.
The investigation also revealed that very few countries have reliable information on national standards of alcohol consumption, with the most recent and complete in the area done in Brazil but which dates back to 2008.
The report includes El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Peru, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Mexico, Colombia and Brazil and shows that six out of ten people consumed alcohol at least once in the last twelve months before the survey which covered an age span from 18 to 65. It also shows that in that period 15% of population in each of those countries was teetotaller or simply had never drunk in their lives.
“This is a very important piece of information since there is the overall perception that everybody drinks alcohol, which is not true. Besides there are significant variations according to the different countries”, said Sojo.
In effect, the report shows that 60% of the population on average in the last twelve months has consumed alcohol, however this ranges from 30% in El Salvador to 83% in Venezuela. Another interesting discovery is that the great majority (75%) does not consume alcohol or does so in volumes below the risk level recommended by the World Health Organization, WHO. The WHO level risk is 40 grams of alcohol for women and 60 grams for men (approx 4 and 5 glasses).
Those volumes are exceeded occasionally or very often by 25% of the rest of the population, of which 20% are subject to an occasional excess risk and 5% face a long term risk. The risk however is not necessarily linked to the national consumption prevalence, pointed out Sojo.
This means that the risk of high consumption is the same in El Salvador than in Costa Rica or Peru, despite the fact Costa Rica on average drinks twice as much and Peru three times as much.
Likewise the report points out that by age the group, the one which most consumes alcohol is that from 25 to 34 and the better the economic position and more educated the percentage goes up.
The report was financed by the Latin American breweries representing 18 countries in Latin America which produce beer.
“The industry paid but FLASCO enjoyed total autonomy and independence in organizing the surveys and writing the conclusions”, underlined Sojo
The chairman of the Breweries Jose Manuel Juanatey said that the organization considers important to have scientific data on drinking habits from which to build public policies in the region.
“The problem is excess but what can’t be said freely is that consuming alcohol is harmful. The report will help build on this. As an industry we promote a moderate consumption of alcohol and we believe it is totally compatible with a healthy, normal life style”, concluded Juanatey.