OECD warns on harmful binge drinking by young people

Alcohol consumption in wealthy, developed countries has declined over the past two decades, but dangerous binge drinking increased among the young, according to a new study released Tuesday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The 34-nation OECD, which advises governments on policies for economic growth, says that average annual alcohol consumption in its member countries has fallen 2.5 percent over the past 20 years, to 9.1 liters of pure alcohol per capita.

That overall trend hides a dangerous increase in hazardous drinking by young people, the OECD says, as measured by both the amount and the rate that alcohol is consumed.

Harmful consumption of alcohol now accounts for a higher proportion of deaths worldwide than HIV/AIDS, violence and tuberculosis combined, according to the report, "Tackling Harmful Alcohol Use."

Among boys aged 15 and younger, the proportion who have been drunk rose to 43 percent from 30 percent during the 2000s, while for girls the share rose to 41 percent from 26 percent, the OECD said.

Regular binge drinking by young adults, usually defined as consuming five or more drinks on one occasion once a week, has risen among both men and women in Canada, Germany and Italy over the past 20 years, the OECD said, and has also risen among French men and New Zealand women. Rates of binge drinking fell over that period in England and Ireland, the OECD said.

The OECD warned that binge drinking by the young is a "major public health and social concern," with children taking up drinking at increasingly earlier ages.

The study also noted that while Estonia, Austria and France had the highest rates of alcohol consumption at more than 12 liters per capita annually, consumption has dropped in Austria and France. In Estonia it has continued to rise, up nearly 60 percent between 1992 and 2012.