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

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.
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.
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.
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.