According to a report from the World Health Organization into substance abuse, Chile currently tops the regional charts with 9.6 litres of alcohol consumed on average per capita each year.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, people consume 8.4 liters of alcohol each year, an estimated 2.2 liters more than world average, according to BBC Mundo.
“Something is changing in Latin America,” Maristela Monteiro, coordinator of the unit for Management of Substance Dependence from the Mental Health and Substance Dependence Department at the World Health Organization comments.
“There never used to be a marked drinking culture in the region, but economic development and new values as a result of globalization are making excessive consumption and binge drinking a trend,” she adds.
Argentina and Venezuela follow Chile, at 9.3 liters and 8.9 liters respectively.
“Alcohol reaches everywhere, the distribution chains have improved, there are more establishments and offer, plus the pressure made by the industry on local governments is negligible, so alcohol prices remain low and unregulated.” Monteiro adds.
Beer remains the drink of choice making up 55 percent of the total consumed, followed by licor such as whisky at 30 percent and wine at 12 percent.
Raising a toast to Colombia
Yet Colombia tops the charts in beer consumption according to report by brewer SABMiller, who noted net producer revenue grow by 10 percent in the country.
Beverage volume increased by 5 percent across Latin America.
The increase can be attributed to the fall of the Colombian peso against the dollar, compensating a decidedly weaker European market report for the firm.
Yet excessive drinking is linked to a whole host of wider health issues.
In Latin America, one in every five drinkers (22 percent) practices binge drinking – the global average is 16 percent.
Even more alarming is that 10 percent of drinkers across Latin America and the Caribbean consume over 40 percent of the total alcohol drunk across the region.
Alcohol is not only linked to depression, but provokes violent episode, traffic accidents and people’s productivity at work.
How to target the problem?
“Drinking needs to be seen less as social kudos,” Monteiro concludes.