Over 3 million people die from harmful use of alcohol yearly – WHO

The headquarters of the World Health Organization (WHO) is pictured in Geneva [Photo Credit: VOANEWS]

Over three million people are reported to have died as a result of harmful use of alcohol in 2016, a report released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday said.

According to the report, “Global status report on alcohol and health 2018,” this represents one in 20 deaths.

It said, however, generally, the harmful use of alcohol caused more than 5 per cent of the global disease burden.

The report also said over three quarters of these deaths were among men.

Of all deaths attributable to alcohol, 28 per cent were due to injuries, such as those from traffic crashes, self-harm and interpersonal violence.

It said 21 per cent was due to digestive disorders and 19 per cent due to cardiovascular diseases.

The remaining were due to infectious diseases, cancers, mental disorders and other health conditions.

In spite of some positive global trends in the prevalence of heavy episodic drinking and number of alcohol-related deaths since 2010, the overall burden of disease and injuries caused by the harmful use of alcohol is unacceptably high.

This is particularly in the European Region and the Region of Americas, said the report.

It added that globally an estimated 237 million men and 46 million women suffered from alcohol-use disorders.


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The highest prevalence is among men and women in the European region (14.8 per cent and 3.5 per cent) and the Region of Americas (11.5 per cent and 5.1 per cent), and that alcohol-use disorders are more common in high-income countries.

The report predicted that the global consumption would increase in the next 10 years.

On the quantity of alcohol being consumed, it is estimated that the average daily consumption of people who drink alcohol is 33 grams of pure alcohol a day.

This is roughly equivalent to two glasses (each of 150 ml) of wine, a large (750 ml) bottle of beer or two shots (each of 40 ml) of spirits.

Worldwide, more than a quarter (27 per cent) of all 15–19-year-olds are current drinkers.

The report said the rates of current drinking were highest among 15–19-year-olds in Europe (44 per cent), followed by the Americas (38 per cent) and the Western Pacific (38 per cent).

School surveys indicate that, in many countries, alcohol use starts before the age of 15 with very small differences between boys and girls.

Worldwide, 45 per cent of total recorded alcohol is consumed in the form of spirits; beer is the second alcoholic beverage in terms of pure alcohol consumed (34 per cent) followed by wine (12 per cent).

The report called for the need for more countries to take action to curb the trend.

“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.

“We would like to see Member States implement creative solutions that will save lives, such as taxing alcohol and restricting advertising.

“We must do more to cut demand and reach the target set by governments of a 10% relative reduction in consumption of alcohol globally between 2010 and 2025,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, said.

Also, Vladimir Poznyak, Coordinator of WHO’s Management of Substance Abuse unit, said: “All countries can do much more to reduce the health and social costs of the harmful use of alcohol.

“Proven, cost-effective actions include increasing taxes on alcoholic drinks, bans or restrictions on alcohol advertising, and restricting the physical availability of alcohol,’’ Mr Poznyak said.



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