Aims: Over recent decades there has been a striking increase in alcohol consumption and related problems in China. As China holds over 22% of the world's population this has a significant potential impact on world health. Here we review English- and Chinese-language publications on the prevalence of alcohol consumption and related problems in China, and treatment and control measures to reduce these.
Methods: Medline search 1976-2002 and search of the China National Knowledge Infrastructure database 1996-2002.
Results: While alcohol is a traditional part of Chinese life, commercial alcohol production in China has increased more than 50-fold per capita since 1952. In parallel there is evidence of a marked increase in prevalence of alcohol dependence, which has moved from the ninth to the third most prevalent mental illness. The public health response to increase in alcohol-related disorders has commenced but is in need of further development.
Conclusions: There is a need for increased policies and public health programmes to reduce alcohol related harm, and evaluation of outpatient treatment potential.