Surveys conducted by the Institute of Psychiatry of the State of Baja California (IEPBC) reveal the extent of alcohol harm among the young Mexicans.
Alcohol harm is pervasive in Mexico – and extends beyond health, social, and economic harm even to environmental damage, such as drought and water scarcity.
In Mexico, the alcohol industry profits massively from this scenario of rising youth alcohol use, while society is facing growing alcohol harms.

Surveys carried out by the Institute of Psychiatry of the State of Baja California (IEPBC) reveal the extent of alcohol harm among Mexican youth. The surveys broadly show that alcohol consumption is on the rise among youth – a serious health and development concern. The Director for the institute says that the increase in alcohol consumption among young people was as high as 20%.

This increase is observed through the comparison of current data with data from the years 2016 and 2017. The prevalence of alcohol use among youth had been at 40%. But it sky-rocketed to 60% last year.

Alcohol use onset and consumption highest among adolescents

The surveys reveal that alcohol initiation and consumption is highest among young people in secondary and higher education. This is the age when young Mexicans begin using drugs both legal and illegal.

According to the IEPBC Director, of the 60% of young people who experiment with alcohol, already 5% fall into the category of high-risk alcohol use. Of the 30% of young adults who experiment with tobacco, 2% will use it frequently into the future.

Alcohol use prevalence among young people in the State of Baja California, Mexico
60% of young people in the Mexican State of Baja California begin consuming alcohol during adolescence, which is a 20% increase compared to 2016-17.

The numbers for illegal drugs were lower: 0.5% experiment with illegal drugs while young, and 0.1% of them will continue to do so. Marijuana and methamphetamines are the illegal drugs that are most often experimented with. However, the impact of legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco far outweighs them.

The extent of alcohol harm in Mexico

Early onset of alcohol use in childhood or adolescence is a major driver of alcohol harm later on in life, including liver disease, cancer, heart diseases, other NCDs, as well as alcohol use disorder, addiction, and other mental health conditions.

The third regional status report on alcohol and health in the Americas, published by the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) in 2020 detailed the extent of alcohol harm in Mexico:

  • Deaths due to alcohol increased in Mexico from 32,000 in 2000 to 50,000 in 2019.
  • Between 2000 to 2019, the rate of years of life lost due to alcohol-related disability and premature death increased from 1,400 to 1,600 per 100,000 inhabitants
  • Mexico has the second highest rate of homicides related to alcohol in the Region of the Americas.

In addition to this socioeconomic burden caused by alcohol there is even a serious environmental burden.

In Mexico, about two and a half liters of water is used to make one liter of beer. Brewers in Mexico obtain rights to gain access to water from the federal government.

These water rights can last decades allowing beer companies to keep draining water to make beer – a non-essential, carcinogenic product. Meanwhile, local communities suffer from water scarcity. But what matters to the beer industry are profits and Mexico, being the world’s largest beer exporter, is profitable for Big Beer, while people and communities suffer.

Major multinational beer companies Heineken, Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev), and Constellation Brands all operate large plants in northern Mexico ignoring the region’s increasing droughts.

In an effort to manage the crisis, the government even distributed nine million liters of water daily to 400 neighborhoods in 2022. This is sometimes the only water a family will receive for a week, barely enough to survive.

Increase in beer industry output in Mexico while people face water scarcity
Big Beer lobby group Brewers Mexico reported that the beer industry in Mexico increased their output by 5% in the first eight months of 2022.

The crisis has only worsened since then. It is unclear how the federal government of Mexico will keep the promise made by President López Obrador to stop beer production in the north.

Big Alcohol drives alcohol use and harm in Mexico

According to a household survey carried out in Mexico, quarterly expenditure on alcoholic beverages in the country reached 4.07 billion Mexican pesos in 2020. This is an increase from the 3.32 billion Mexican pesos spent by alcohol consumers in 2018. And two years before that, alcohol expenditure was at 2.62 billion Mexican pesos. Spending on alcohol is increasing in Mexico, according to Statista.

In Mexico, the alcohol industry profits massively from this scenario, while society is facing growing alcohol harms.

Statista also reports that alcohol industry revenue has been increasing for four years in a row in Mexico. And it is forecast to continuously increase between 2023 and 2027 by in total 7.7 billion U.S. dollars – a 29.09 percentage point growth for Big Alcohol.

  • Revenue in the Alcoholic Drinks market amounts to US$26.47bn in 2023. The market is expected to grow annually by 6.59%, according to Statista.
  • Beer is the alcohol market’s largest segment in Mexico with a market volume of US$21.21bn in 2023.
  • In relation to total population figures, per person revenues of US$199.30 are generated for Big Alcohol companies in 2023.

Alcohol companies Heineken and Modela belong to the leading advertisers in the digital space – where they reach many young Mexicans, according to Statista figures for 2022.

In 2022, digital advertising accounted for over 60% of the total ad expenditure in Mexico, making it the largest online ad market in Latin America. For comparison, the share was at 53 percent in Argentina and 43 percent in Peru. Video and social pushed the development of the online segment. 

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