Saturday, May 7, 2011

Prevalence of Alcoholism

Alcohol dependence affects a broad cross section of society around the world. Statistics show that alcohol dependence touches successful business executives, skilled mechanics, laborers, homemakers, and church members of all denominations.

Scientists have not identified a typical alcoholic personality, and they cannot predict with absolute certainty which drinkers will progress to alcohol dependence.
Alcohol use varies depending on an individual’s social, cultural, or religious background. Some individuals do not drink at all—about one-third of adults in the United States who are 18 and older, for example, abstain from alcohol. Others drink as part of social custom. Still others drink frequently and in substantial amounts. Those suffering from alcohol dependence drink to appease an uncontrolled craving for alcohol or to avoid experiencing the unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal.
WHO estimates that about 76 million people worldwide suffer from alcohol-related disorders. The prevalence of the illness varies in different countries. In the United States about 15 percent of the population experiences problems related to their use of alcohol. Of these, alcohol dependence affects about 12.5 million men and women, or almost 4 percent of the population. Men are three times more likely than women to become alcoholics, while people aged 65 and older have the lowest rates of alcohol dependence.
In the United States, people who start to drink at an early age are at particular risk for developing alcohol dependence. Estimates indicate that 40 percent of people who begin to drink before age 15 will become alcohol dependent at some point in their lives. These individuals are four times more likely to become alcohol dependent than those who delay drinking until age 21.
In Canada, an estimated 4 percent of the people aged 15 and older are alcohol dependent, and the number of male alcoholics is double that of females. The highest rate of this illness occurs in Canadians between the ages of 20 and 24. In Canadian surveys about one in five current and former drinkers admit that their drinking harmed them at some point in their lives, affecting their jobs or financial position.
Alcohol dependence has reached critical proportions in Russia, where it is estimated that almost a third of all deaths are related, directly or indirectly, to alcohol abuse. Periodic efforts by the government to control drinking by closing distilleries, breweries, and bars have backfired. Instead of solving the problem, such tactics only created a widespread black market for liquor—as well as a country of people who hide their drinking problems. 
In Asian nations such as Japan, alcohol abuse has become a social concern. In these countries, drinking almost is required when conducting business. Bars are an extension of offices, places where key decisions are made. A person who declines an invitation to a drink after work risks being passed over for promotion within the company. Alcohol is readily available in Japan—vending machines along the streets of Tokyo dispense cans of beer and sake.

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