Vietnam records fifth highest increase in per capita alcohol consumption

By Sen    May 13, 2019 | 04:00 am PT
Vietnam records fifth highest increase in per capita alcohol consumption
People hold glasses of beer at a restaurant in Hanoi, Vietnam, June 24, 2017. Photo by Reuters/Kham
Per capita liquor consumption in Vietnam increased 90 percent in 2010-2017, surpassing regional giants and against drops in Europe.

The Lancet medical journal recently released a study of alcohol consumption in 189 countries and territories from 1990–2017 and estimated rates through 2030, showing people around the world are steadily upping their drinking game.

The study found a 90.2 percent uptick in Vietnamese alcohol intake per capita between 2010 and 2017, the world’s fifth highest, following Timor-Leste (246 percent), Niger (137 percent), Comoros (122 percent) and Seychelles (91.3 percent)

In comparison, the overall rise in Southeast Asia was 34 percent, while Europeans drank less in the same period with a decline of 12 percent.

Vietnam, which consumed 8.9 liters of pure alcohol per person in 2017, also surpassed Japan (7.9 liters), China (7.4 liters) and India (5.9 liters). 5.9 liters of pure alcohol per year would be roughly one can of 330 ml beer per day per adult.

Jakob Manthey, the first author of the study, told the U.K.’s Medical News Today: "Before 1990, most alcohol was consumed in high-income countries, with the highest use levels recorded in Europe. However, this pattern has changed substantially, with large reductions across Eastern Europe and vast increases in several middle-income countries, such as China, India and Vietnam."

Global exposure to pure alcohol increased from 5.9 liters a year per adult in 1990, to 6.5 liters in 2017. The authors predicted that this would grow to 7.6 liters by 2030.

More specifically, by 2030, half of all adults will drink alcohol, and almost a quarter (23 percent) will binge drink at least once a month, the study estimates.

The likely reason for this is increased alcohol use in low- and middle-income countries as their financial status gets higher.

Dr Jürgen Rehm, one of the authors, told VnExpress International that the association between increases in GPD and increases in adult alcohol per capita consumption was "almost perfect" in Vietnam.

While affordability was the biggest factor, Rehm also attributed Vietnam's astounding alcohol indulgence to weak alcohol control policy.

"Vietnam still has a lot of unrecorded alcohol, and any policy would need to reduce this volume, and at the same time make recorded alcohol less affordable and less available," he said.

Vietnam is famous for its beer drinking culture. It is widely believed that business deals in Vietnam tend to go more smoothly over a few drinks at the negotiating table. Vietnam is the biggest beer market in Southeast Asia, consuming nearly four billion liters in 2017.

The country spends on average $3.4 billion on alcohol each year, or 3 percent of the government’s budget revenue, according to official data. The figure translates to $300 per capita, while spending on health averages $113 per person, according to the Ministry of Health.

40 percent of traffic accidents in Vietnam are linked to excessive drinking, according to the WHO, which it says is an alarming rate for a country where road crashes kill a person every hour, on average.

WHO sent a letter to Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc last year, asking Vietnamese government to tighten controls over the production, sales and advertising of beer and alcoholic beverage to discourage drinking and protect consumers’ health.

Also last year, Vietnam's health ministry proposed an advertisement ban on beer.

World Health Organization has set out global strategies to reduce the harmful use of alcohol by at least 10 percent by 2025, which is not likely to be achieved, author Manthey told EurekAlert of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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