A study released on Tuesday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has found that while the level of alcohol consumption in developed nations has declined over the past two decades, binge drinking has increased considerably among the young.
The Paris-based organization is made of 34 participating countries, including the United States, the U.K., Italy, Australia, and Brazil. This week, the global economic group warned that binge drinking among the young is a “major public health and social concern,” and that children are now drinking at increasingly earlier ages.
During the 2000s, the number of boys aged 15 and younger who have been drunk rose from 30 to 43 percent, and that figure for girls of the same age group rose from 26 to 41 percent, according to OECD data.
The rate of young people who have never consumed alcohol also shrank during this time, from 44 to 30 percent for boys, and from 50 to 31 percent for girls.
In the last 20 years, alcohol abuse has also become the fifth leading cause of death and disability.
To combat this global pattern of alcohol abuse — which the organization estimates results in annual losses of 1 percent of gross domestic production in the majority of developed countries — the OECD has recommended that nations adopt a 10 percent increase in alcohol prices.
“The cost to society and the economy of excessive alcohol consumption around the world is massive, especially in OECD countries,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. “This report provides clear evidence that even expensive alcohol abuse prevention policies are cost-effective in the long run and underlines the need for urgent action by governments.”