Alcohol consumption

Alcohol consumption among men in India has fallen by 7% since 2015, according to NFHS-5 report

In Karnataka, 0.3% of women consume alcohol, below the national average (1%). But 23.1% of men do it, which is higher than the national average (22%)

In Karnataka, 0.3% of women consume alcohol, below the national average (1%). But 23.1% of men do it, which is higher than the national average (22%)

Although alcohol consumption is known to have historically been high among men, the recent National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) for 2019-2021 found that only 1% of women aged 15-49 years drink alcohol in the country, compared to 22% of men. Overall consumption is high in rural areas, the report says.

In Karnataka, 0.3% of women consume alcohol, below the national average. But 23.1% of men do, which is higher than the national average.

NIMHANS Director Pratima Murthy said the reduction in consumption according to the NFHS-5 report could also be due to non-availability during the COVID-19 lockdown, as the report is for 2019-2021.

The percentage of women who consume alcohol is highest in Arunachal Pradesh (18%), followed by Sikkim (15%). Alcohol consumption among men is highest in Goa (59%), followed by Arunachal Pradesh (57%) and Telangana (50%), while it is lowest in Lakshadweep (1% ).

Among women who drink alcohol, 17% drink it almost every day and 37% drink it about once a week. Among men, while 15% drink almost daily, 43% drink about once a week and 42% less than once a week.

Alcohol use is more common among Scheduled Tribe women (4%) than any other caste/tribe group.

Use is also more common among Christian men (36%) and men belonging to “other” religions (49%). “Other” religions here are those outside the Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist/Neo-Buddhist and Jain communities.

Alcohol use is also seen in 33% of men with less than 5 years of schooling, 34% of those from Scheduled Tribes, and 30% of those in the 35-49 age group.

Overall, the proportion of men who drink alcohol increased from 29% to 22% between NFHS-4 in 2015-2016 and NFHS-5 in 2019-2021. During this period, the proportion of women who drink remained unchanged, according to the report.

NIMHANS study

NIMHANS Director Pratima Murthy who was part of a study which found that excessive alcohol consumption can cause irreversible changes in DNA and that these changes can persist even when it is no longer consumed , said the reduction in consumption according to the NFHS-5 report may also be due to unavailability during the COVID-19 lockdown, as the report covers 2019-2021.

The NIMHANS study, published last year in the American Journal of Medical Genetics, found that the effects of alcohol were more pronounced in those who started at an early age.

Dr Murthy said The Hindu that the results suggest that starting drinking early can physically alter many genes, including those in the brain. “It can have a significant effect on brain development and maturation that can persist into late adult life,” she said.

Sales increase

Vivek Benegal, professor of psychiatry, who heads the Center for Addiction Medicine at NIMHANS, said the overall reduction in drinking is a welcome change. However, it must be seen in the context of the steady increase in sales and production of alcohol.

“The results will need to be weighed against a steady increase in alcohol sales and production during the period the reduction was observed. It is essential to obtain more data through new studies that will support the conclusions of the NFHS-5. If per capita consumption decreases, this will help reduce the social and health costs attributable to alcohol,” Dr. Benegal pointed out.