Alcohol responsible for 1 in 20 deaths worldwide: WHO

On average, the 2.3 billion people currently considered drinkers - meaning they have drunk alcohol at least once in the past year - consume 33g of pure alcohol per day.
On average, the 2.3 billion people currently considered drinkers - meaning they have drunk alcohol at least once in the past year - consume 33g of pure alcohol per day.PHOTO: REUTERS

More than 3m people killed globally each year; men account for over ¾ of such deaths

GENEVA • Alcohol kills over three million people worldwide each year - more than Aids, violence and road accidents combined, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said, adding that men are particularly at risk.

The United Nations health agency's latest report on alcohol and health released on Friday pointed out that alcohol causes more than one in 20 deaths globally each year, including those resulting from drink driving, alcohol-induced violence and abuse and a multitude of diseases and disorders.

Men account for more than three quarters of alcohol-related deaths, the report found.

"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," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.

Drinking is linked to more than 200 health conditions, including liver cirrhosis and some cancers.

Alcohol abuse also makes people more susceptible to infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and pneumonia, the report found.

HARMFUL USE

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.

W.H.O. CHIEF TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS

The more than three million alcohol-related deaths registered globally in 2016 - the latest available statistics - account for 5.3 percent of all deaths that year.

For young people, the numbers are even more alarming, with a full 13.5 per cent of all deaths among 20-to 29-year-olds considered to be alcohol-related.

In comparison, HIV/Aids was responsible for 1.8 per cent of global deaths in 2016, road injuries accounted for 2.5 per cent and violence for 0.8 per cent, it said.

The latest numbers are lower than those in WHO's last report on global alcohol consumption, published in 2014. There are "some positive global trends", the agency said, noting shrinking prevalence of heavy episodic drinking and alcohol-related deaths since 2010.

But it warned that "the overall burden of disease and injuries caused by the harmful use of alcohol is unacceptably high", especially in Europe and the Americas.

Globally, an estimated 237 million men and 46 million women suffer from alcohol-use disorders, WHO said. Alcohol abuse affects nearly 15 per cent of men and 3.5 per cent of women in Europe, and 11.5 per cent of men and 5.1 per cent of women in the Americas.

Alcohol consumption overall is unevenly distributed around the globe, with well over half of the world's population over the age of 15 abstaining completely.

On average, the 2.3 billion people currently considered drinkers - meaning they have drunk alcohol at least once in the past year - consume 33g of pure alcohol per day. That is roughly equivalent to two glasses of wine, a large bottle of beer or two shots of spirits.

Europe has the highest per capita consumption, which despite a more than 10 per cent drop since 2010 still registered a per capita consumption of 10 litres of pure alcohol or more per year. However, outside of Europe, alcohol consumption has continued to rise, especially in Asia, with China and India registering significant spikes.

 
 

"Based on all trends and predictions, we can expect an increase in overall alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harm in the next 10 years," said Mr Vladimir Poznyak, who coordinates WHO's substance abuse unit.

WHO urged countries to tax alcohol and ban advertising of such beverages to reduce consumption. It also called on countries to do more to reach a goal of cutting global consumption by 10 per cent between 2010 and 2025.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 23, 2018, with the headline 'Alcohol responsible for 1 in 20 deaths worldwide: WHO'. Print Edition | Subscribe