Alcohol use, alcohol use disorder and heavy episodic drinking in the Eastern Mediterranean region: A systematic review

Addiction. 2024 Jun;119(6):984-997. doi: 10.1111/add.16444. Epub 2024 Feb 14.


Background and ams: Despite the evident public health impact, the extent and patterns of alcohol use in the Eastern Mediterranean countries remain understudied. The latest estimation for the last 12-month use of alcohol in the region was 2.9% in 2016 by the World Health Organization. We reviewed the main indicators for alcohol consumption in the region since 2010.

Methods: We systematically searched on-line databases until September 2023, together with other global and regional sources for studies on the adult general population (aged ≥ 15 years) and young general populations (aged < 18 years) and studies on the treatment-seeking individuals with substance use in Eastern Mediterranean countries. Studies were included from 22 countries: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

Results: A total of 148 were included (n = 95 on the prevalence of alcohol use, n = 46 on the prevalence of alcohol use disorder, regular use and heavy episodic drinking, n = 35 on alcohol use pattern among people who use substances and one report on alcohol per capita consumption, n = 29 had data for more than one category). The pooled prevalence of the last 12-month alcohol use in the adult general population was 9.5% [95% confidence interval (CI) = 6.4-13.7] among males, 2.8% (95% CI = 1.3-5.5\) among females and 6.2% (95% CI = 3.9-9.6) in both sexes in the region, with notable subregional variations. Data on the prevalence of alcohol use disorder and heavy drinking were limited to several countries, with heterogeneous indicators. The pooled estimate of alcohol as the primary substance of use among treatment-seeking people who used substances was 16.9% (95% CI = 8.8-26.9).

Conclusions: More than 30 million adults in the Eastern Mediterranean region used alcohol in the last 12 months, with a prevalence of 6.2%. This is far fewer than the global estimate of 43% of the population aged 15 years and above, but is approximately two times more than the previous estimate (2.9%), reported by the World Health Organization in 2016, which might show an increasing trend.

Keywords: Alcohol; Middle East; North Africa; South Asia; West Asia; epidemiology; harmful use; public health.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Afghanistan / epidemiology
  • Africa, Northern / epidemiology
  • Alcohol Drinking* / epidemiology
  • Alcoholism* / epidemiology
  • Binge Drinking / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle East / epidemiology
  • Pakistan / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Young Adult