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Alcohol Consumption in Central Asia

Alcohol consumption is a social issue in Central Asia. The authorities of countries in the region regularly hold campaigns to reduce alcohol consumption and improve the citizens’ health. The issue nonetheless remains relevant and data on the region presents compelling numbers and trends.

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There is an overall decrease in alcohol consumption observed in Central Asian countries. According to the latest data of the World Health Organization (WHO), alcohol consumption is the highest in Kazakhstan. Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan are ranked second and third in alcohol consumption, followed by Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.  

In 2010, total alcohol per capita consumption in Kazakhstan was 9.3 liters, and in 2016 the figure decreased to 7.7 liters.

The same trend is observed in Kyrgyzstan. Total alcohol consumption in Kyrgyzstan has declined over the past decade. According to the WHO, alcohol per capita consumption in 2016 was 6.2 liters, while in 2010 this number amounted to 10.2 liters per person.

Similarly, in Uzbekistan, alcohol consumption fell from 3.2 liters in 2010 to 2.7 liters per person, according to 2016 data.

The same situation in Turkmenistan – alcohol consumption fell from 6 liters in 2010 to 5.4 liters per capita according to 2016 data.

The opposite situation is observed in Tajikistan. From 2.4 liters per person in 2010, alcohol per capita consumption increased to 3.3 liters in 2016.

For comparison, Russia ranks 16th in alcohol consumption. The country was able to significantly reduce alcohol per capita consumption from 15.8 liters in 2010 to 11.7 liters in 2016.

According to WHO, Moldova ranks first in the world in alcohol consumption. Kazakhstan holds 76th place in the rating, China is in 83th place, Kyrgyzstan holds 96th spot, Turkmenistan is in 107th place, while Tajikistan is in 131st and Uzbekistan is in 138th places.

It also turned out that Central Asians drink vodka and hard liquors most of all. Then comes the beer and wine. An exception is Turkmenistan, where they drink a little more wine than beer.

It is worth noting that in all countries of Central Asia women consume alcohol significantly less than men.

Alcohol consumption among men in the region has fallen since 2010. The same trend is observed among women. The exception is Tajikistan, where alcohol consumption, on the contrary, has increased among both women and men.

The harm from a certain level of alcohol consumption might be greater for a lower income society than for a society with high income brackets. For example, a more advanced road infrastructure in developed countries is believed to reduce the likelihood of road traffic accidents (RTAs) caused by alcohol consumption, while the likelihood increases, on the contrary, in less developed countries. However, this does not imply the dependence of decrease in alcohol consumption on the economic development of the country.

According to a recent WHO report, the harmful use of alcohol in 2016 led to approximately three million deaths (5.3% of all deaths) worldwide. Mortality from alcohol consumption is higher than from diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV / AIDS and diabetes. Also, WHO estimates that 2.3 million deaths among men in 2016 were attributable to alcohol consumption. Women, in turn, experienced 0.7 million alcohol-related deaths.

In 2016, the mortality rate in Kazakhstan from road accidents associated with alcohol consumption is 34.2% for men and 31.5% for women. The second on the list is Turkmenistan, where the figure amounts to 31% for men and 22.9% for women. Both are followed by Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.  

WHO’s 2016 data reports that the mortality rate from alcohol-related liver cirrhosis in Kazakhstan is 73.9% for men and 45.2% for women. In Kyrgyzstan this number is 72.3% for men and 40.3% for women. The ratio is 69% and 38.8% in Turkmenistan, 60.5% and 29.8% in Tajikistan, and 58.6% and 29.2% in Uzbekistan.

The minimum legal age to purchase any alcohol is 21 years of age in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan and 20 years of age in Uzbekistan. Only Kyrgyzstan allows alcohol purchase from the age of 18.

In Turkmenistan, the sale of alcohol is banned on holidays and non-working days, including Saturday and Sunday.

Kazakhstan prohibits selling alcohol from 11 pm on weekdays and 12 am on weekends until 8 am. The sale of alcoholic beverages with a volume fraction of ethyl alcohol of more than 30% (vodka, rum, whiskey, cognac) is banned from 9 pm to noon of the next day, except for cafés, bars, restaurants and trading houses where one can buy alcohol during the working time of a place.

Uzbekistan and Tajikistan allow the sale of alcohol distanced on 200 and 100 meters, respectively, from the territories of kindergartens, schools, hospitals and other educational and recreational institutions. 

This material has been prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project. The opinions expressed in the article do not reflect the position of the editorial board or donor.

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