More than one in 20 deaths worldwide is caused by alcohol, with over three quarters among men, according to a new report by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
In 2016 alone, more than 3 million people died as a result of harmful use of alcohol (about six every minute), including around 2.3 million men. Overall, harmful use of alcohol accounts for more than 5% of global deaths each year.
The WHO’s Global status report on alcohol and health 2018 highlights how nearly a third of all deaths occur as a result of fights, traffic accidents and suicides. Of the remaining alcohol-related deaths, 21% were due to digestive disorders; 19% due to cardiovascular diseases, and the remainder from other health conditions, including infectious diseases, cancers and mental disorders.
The WHO report, which is released every four years, underlines the continued burden alcohol places on modern societies, with deaths in Europe and America described as “unacceptably high.” In fact, the report says Europe and America have the highest prevalence of alcohol use disorders among men and women. It goes on to reveal that alcohol use disorders are more common in high-income countries.
Even though alcohol consumption has actually decreased by more than 10% in Europe since 2010, the region still has the highest per capita consumption in the world.
However, the WHO says that global alcohol consumption is set to grow over the next decade, particularly in Southeast Asia. Furthermore, despite having lower consumption rates than Europe, Africa witnesses more disease and injury attributed to alcohol every year. The WHO says this is down to socio-economic status being a major vulnerability factor for alcohol-related deaths.
Young people (aged 20-39) are seemingly more impacted by alcohol than other age groups, with 13.5% of all deaths in this age group attributed to drinking alcohol.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the WHO, said: “Far too many people, their families and communities suffer the consequences of the harmful use of alcohol through violence, injuries, mental health problems and diseases like cancer and stroke. It’s time to step up action to prevent this serious threat to the development of healthy societies.”
When it comes to the types of alcohol people are drinking, spirits top the list, accounting for 45% of all alcohol consumed worldwide. Beer is second, accounting for 34%, while wine comes in third at 12%. Since 2010, alcoholic beverage preferences have remained largely unchanged, the report notes.
The WHO is urging all countries can do more to curb the amount of alcohol consumed by their citizens. Increasing taxes on alcoholic drinks, alcohol bans, restrictions on alcohol advertising and reducing availability are all proven ways to reduce the health and social costs of the harmful use of alcohol, the WHO says.
How much alcohol do you consume on a regular basis? Could you even provide an accurate figure? Remember, current NHS guidelines advise men and women to drink no more than 14 units a week. A 750ml bottle of wine (ABV 13.5%) is equivalent to around 10 units.
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