Alcohol and tobacco use are growing public health problems in developing countries. Many DHS surveys ask respondents about frequency of alcohol and tobacco use. (Photo credit: Mukunda Bogati, Courtesy of Photoshare)

What data does DHS collect about alcohol and tobacco?

Data on consumption of alcohol and use of tobacco among men and women are collected, including frequency of alcohol consumption and frequency and type of tobacco use. Data are also collected on the role of alcohol consumption in domestic violence. Over 40 surveys collected data on alcoholic consumption and over 80 surveys collected data on tobacco use.

How are alcohol and tobacco use relevant to health and DHS?

Consumption of alcohol and use of tobacco are lifestyle measures that may cause direct or indirect health risks.

Smoking has been shown to have significant adverse health effects, both for the individual smoker and for other people exposed to second-hand or "environmental" tobacco smoke.

Smoking is a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease; it causes lung cancer and other forms of cancer and contributes to the severity of pneumonia, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis.

Tobacco use by pregnant women can cause low birth weight and small size at birth. It can also interfere with pregnancy and breastfeeding. Environmental tobacco smoke can cause acute respiratory infections and interfere with the growth of children.
The harmful use of alcohol is a global problem that negatively affects both individual and social development. Alcohol consumption causes harm far beyond the physical and psychological health of the drinker. It also causes harm to the well-being and health of others. Alcohol is associated with violence, child neglect and abuse, and absenteeism in the workplace.

Harmful drinking is a major determinant for alcohol use disorders, injury, epilepsy and other noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cirrhosis of the liver and various cancers. The harmful use of alcohol is also associated with several infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). This is because alcohol consumption can lead to risky behavior, and because it weakens the immune system thus allowing infection by pathogens. In addition, alcohol consumption has a negative effect on patients' adherence to antiretroviral treatment.

Because the health impact from alcohol use strikes relatively early in life, it is the leading risk factor for mortality and the overall burden of disease in the 15–59 age group.

Photo credit: Mukunda Bogati, Courtesy of Photoshare.