Background: Alcohol abuse, together with tobacco use, is a major determinant of health and social well-being, and is one of the most important of 26 risk factors comparatively assessed in low and middle income countries, surpassed only by high blood pressure and tobacco. Objectives: The alcohol consumption patterns and the associations between consumption of alcohol and socio-demographic and cultural factors have been investigated in nine rural Health and Demographic Surveillance System (HDSS) located in five Asian countries. Methods: The information was collected from multiple study sites, with sample sizes of sufficient size to measure trends in age and sex groups over time. Adopting the WHO STEPwise approach to Surveillance (WHO STEPS), stratified random sampling (in each 10-year interval) from the HDSS sampling frame was undertaken. Information regarding alcohol consumption and demographic indicators were collected using the WHO STEPwise standard surveillance form. The data from the nine HDSS sites were merged and analysed using STATA software version 10. Results: Alcohol was rarely consumed in five of the HDSS (four in Bangladesh, and one in Indonesia). In the two HDSS in Vietnam (Chililab, Filabavi) and one in Thailand (Kanchanaburi), alcohol consumption was common in men. The mean number of drinks per day during the last seven days, and prevalence of at-risk drinker were found to be highest in Filabavi. The prevalence of female alcohol consumption was much smaller in comparison with men. In Chililab, people who did not go to school or did not complete primary education were more likely to drink in comparison to people who graduated from high school or university. Conclusions: Although uncommon in some countries because of religious and cultural practices, alcohol consumption patterns in some sites were cause for concern. In addition, qualitative studies may be necessary to understand the factors influencing alcohol consumption levels between the two sites in Vietnam and the site in Thailand in order to design appropriate interventions.
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