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The epidemiology of alcohol use disorders cross-nationally: Findings from the World Mental Health Surveys

Background:
Prevalences of Alcohol Use Disorders (AUDs) and Mental Health Disorders (MHDs) in many individual countries have been reported but there are few cross-national studies. The WHO World Mental Health (WMH) Survey Initiative standardizes methodological factors facilitating comparison of the prevalences and associated factors of AUDs in a large number of countries to identify differences and commonalities.
Methods:
Lifetime and 12-month prevalence estimates of DSM-IV AUDs, MHDs, and associations were assessed in the 29 WMH surveys using the WHO CIDI 3.0.
Results:
Prevalence estimates of alcohol use and AUD across countries and WHO regions varied widely. Mean lifetime prevalence of alcohol use in all countries combined was 80%, ranging from 3.8% to 97.1%. Combined average population lifetime and 12-month prevalence of AUDs were 8.6% and 2.2% respectively and 10.7% and 4.4% among non-abstainers. Of individuals with a lifetime AUD, 43.9% had at least one lifetime MHD and 17.9% of respondents with a lifetime MHD had a lifetime AUD. For most comorbidity combinations, the MHD preceded the onset of the AUD. AUD prevalence was much higher for men than women. 15% of all lifetime AUD cases developed before age 18. Higher household income and being older at time of interview, married, and more educated, were associated with a lower risk for lifetime AUD and AUD persistence.
Conclusions:
Prevalence of alcohol use and AUD is high overall, with large variation worldwide. The WMH surveys corroborate the wide geographic consistency of a number of well-documented clinical and epidemiological findings and patterns.