Academic journal article Journal of Health Population and Nutrition

Patterns of Alcohol Consumption among Male Adults at a Slum in Kolkata, India

Academic journal article Journal of Health Population and Nutrition

Patterns of Alcohol Consumption among Male Adults at a Slum in Kolkata, India

Article excerpt


Alcohol-abuse and alcoholism are one of the major public-health problems in both developed and developing countries (1). The 32nd World Health Assembly declared that "problems related to alcohol and particularly to its excessive consumption rank among the world's major public health problems and constitute serious hazards for human health, welfare and life" (2). The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that there are about two billion consumers of alcoholic beverages and 76.3 million people with diagnosable alcohol-use disorders worldwide (3). Alcohol consumption accounts for nearly 3.2% of all days and 4% of all disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) lost (4). In addition to chronic diseases, such as cancer of the mouth, oesophagus and larynx, liver cirrhosis, and pancreatitis, social consequences, such as road-traffic accidents, workplace-related problems, family and domestic problems, and interpersonal violence, have been receiving more public or research attention in recent years (4). The risks relating to alcohol are linked to the pattern of drinking and the amount of consumption. Many forms of excessive drinking cause substantial risk or harm to the individual. These include high-level drinking each day, repeated episodes of drinking to intoxication, and drinking that makes a person alcohol-dependent. While persons with dependence on alcohol are most likely to incur high levels of harm, the bulk of harms associated with consumption of alcohol occurs among non-dependent drinkers because they are more in number than dependents (5). Therefore, the identification of drinkers with various types and degrees of at-risk alcohol consumption has a great potential to reduce all types of alcohol-related harms (5).

Abuse of alcohol is one of the main killers of young men in India today. The mean age of respondents at the initiation of alcohol consumption has decreased from 23.36 years in 1950-1960 to 19.45 years in 1980-1990 (6). Due to its large population, India has become the third largest market for alcoholic beverages in the world. Despite having a large proportion of lifetime abstainers (89.6%), per-capita consumption of alcohol in India has increased by 106.7% over 1970-1996 (6). Changing social norms, urbanization, increased availability, high-intensity mass marketing, and relaxation of overseas trade rules, along with the poor level of awareness, have contributed to increased alcohol use (6,7).

Growing urbanization is considered to play a pivotal role in the establishment and growth of slums (8). In India, 30-50% of the population of million-plus cities resides in slums. In Kolkata, about 7% of the total land area is occupied by slum-dwellers who constitute about 35% (1.5 million) of the total population residing in about 5,500 slums (2001) (9). Due to their deplorable socioeconomic status, slum-dwellers often remain the worst victims of the physical, psychological and social consequences of alcohol-use.

However, few studies have been conducted on the sociodemographic aspects and social consequences of alcohol-use among urban slum-dwellers in the eastern region of India, especially in West Bengal, despite the presence of a huge slum population in West Bengal, second only to Maharashtra in the country (8). A well-planned nationwide programme for the prevention and control of this social pathology is needed. The present study was undertaken with the objectives to identify the patterns of alcohol intake among different types of alcohol consumers and to assess the clinical signs of chronic harmful alcohol-use so that it might be beneficial in planning, implementation, and evaluation of appropriate programmes for the elimination of this social evil.


Study setting and design

This community-based, cross-sectional study was conducted for one year (May 2008-April 2009) in the Sector IV of Unit B of the service area of the Urban Health Centre (UHC) in Chetla, the urban field practice area of the All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health, Kolkata, West Bengal. …

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