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Costa Rica has the 4th highest rate of alcoholism in Latin America and the Caribbean

May 19, 2014

The beer-loving Central American country had the fourth highest rate of alcohol dependence in the region, though it was not significantly higher than the regional average.

The World Health Organization (WHO) published a worldwide study (PDF) on alcohol consumption and its effects last Monday. WHO measured consumption rates, favorite types of alcohol, and side effects such as addiction, road accidents and liver cirrhosis.

Perú reported the highest rate of alcoholism, at 4.9 percent of its population, followed by Colombia and Belize. Costa Rica reported a rate of 3.1 percent, barely edging out 27 other countries in the region who reported rates between 2.9 percent and 2.5 percent. For comparison, the U.S. had a rate of 4.7 percent.

Costa Rica also ranked fifth in the region for alcohol disorders. WHO defines disorders as including “acute intoxication, harmful use, dependence syndrome, withdrawal syndrome, (with and without delirium), psychotic disorders, and amnesic syndrome.” Once again Perú, Belize and Colombia outranked Costa Rica on this related category, with Guyana edging ahead.

On other measures, Costa Rica was average or below average for the region. Among those who drank, Costa Ricans consumed an average of 10.5 liters of pure alcohol per year, which was 26th out of 33 countries. Heavy drinking rates ranked Costa Rica 16th in the region. Approximately 49 percent of Costa Ricans said they never drank or had not drank in the past year, which was the 12th highest rate in the region. Fatal consequences of drinking such as traffic accidents and liver cirrhosis were low in Costa Rica, ranking 22nd.

Explore the difference in drink choices, consumption and the consequences of drinking across the region below.

The smallest Central American country was an interesting case in the statistics. Belize led the region in per capita consumption among drinkers, at 29.8 liters of pure alcohol per year. However, 71.4 percent of Belizeans reported never drinking or not drinking in the last year, the highest rate in the region. Paraguay reported the highest rates of heavy drinking with 33.9 percent of the population saying they consumed 60 grams or more in one occasion in the past 30 days.

Overall, alcohol consumption and related problems were higher for men than women in every country, while abstention rates were higher for women. Mexico had the largest gender divide, where, among drinkers, men consumed an average of 12.3 liters of pure alcohol more per year than women did. Costa Rica had one of the most egalitarian drinking rates, with men only consuming 4.3 liters more than women, the third closest rate in the region.

From the World Health Organization
Costa Rican alcohol consumption over time. Beer consumption has climbed recently, surpassing liquor around the turn of the century, while overall consumption has declined. From the World Health Organization

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