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Country’s cultural values predict its alcohol consumption pattern, says study

The reasons behind excessive alcohol consumption are important in shaping any country’s public health policy. Research in the past have tried to understand the reasons for excessive drinking at an individual level. However, not much has been studied at a broader societal or cultural level. In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers from the United Kingdom and Portugal tried to establish an association between a country’s average alcohol consumption levels and their cultural values, like autonomy, hierarchy, harmony and collectivism.

The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology in November 2017, showed that individuals from societies which emphasized autonomy (individualism) and harmony had higher alcohol consumption levels compared to individuals from societies which prioritized hierarchy or collectivism (embeddedness).

The researchers used online sources to obtain data pertaining to cultural values in 74 countries. Information on alcohol consumption levels in these countries was also collected. The researchers used the ridge regression analysis to calculate partial correlations and found that there was a close association between cultural values and alcohol consumption. The data was adjusted for factors like education and income, which is known to influence people’s alcohol-consuming habits.

The findings also highlighted differences in the way cultural values influenced alcohol consumption by gender. Higher alcohol consumption was observed in men, but not in women, due to changes in cultural harmony, autonomy, egalitarianism and mastery. Lower alcohol consumption among women, but not in men, was associated with changes in cultural embeddedness and hierarchy.

Need to prioritize dealing with alcohol consumption

According to co-author Richard Inman, from the University of Lusíada in Porto, Portugal, the results suggested that international bodies like the World Health Organization (WHO) should prioritize dealing with alcohol consumption in countries with autonomous/less traditional societies. He insisted that future research should further investigate the association between cultural values and alcohol consumption.

Co-author Paul Hanel from the University of Bath in the U.K. mentioned that, as the next step, researchers could undertake similar analyses to understand the association between cultural values and other risky behaviors, like smoking and drug use, or health issues like obesity. Nearly 70 percent of all deaths globally are caused by noncommunicable factors comprising smoking, inactivity and diet, and excessive alcohol consumption.

The researchers’ concerns regarding the overconsumption of alcohol are not unfounded. Data presented by the WHO highlights the global hazards of excess drinking. According to it, in 2012, 3.3 million deaths, or 5.9 percent of all deaths globally, were attributed to alcohol consumption. The damaging effects of alcohol extended to over 200 diseases and injury conditions, including liver cirrhosis, cancer, high blood pressure and addiction.

According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 136.7 million Americans aged 12 years or older (50.7 percent of the age group) reported current alcohol use during the year. Of these, 65.3 million people (47.8 percent) reported past-month binge alcohol use, and 16.3 million people (11.9 percent) reported heavy alcohol use. Further, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), excessive alcohol use was responsible for 88,000 deaths every year between 2006 and 2010.

Dealing with alcohol addiction

The latest NSDUH data shows that 15.1 million people aged 12 years or older (5.6 percent of the age group) had an alcohol use disorder (AUD) in 2016. There are a variety of treatment options available for overcoming AUDs, including behavioral therapy, medications and mutual-help groups. Research shows that only 15 to 25 percent of people with problematic alcohol use seek treatment, and in most cases, they are forced to do so by a court order, by family members or employers.

Alcohol addiction can be treated with timely interventions. If you or a loved one is suffering from alcoholism, get in touch with experts from the 24/7 Recovery Helpline for information on recovery options available at leading alcohol abuse treatment centers in the United States. To know more about alcohol addiction treatment options in your vicinity, call our 24/7 helpline number 855-441-4405 or chat with one of our online representatives.

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