World Health Organisation Study Finds Alcohol Responsible For 5% Of Deaths Worldwide

A liquor store in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo: Rick Bowmer, AP)

Alcohol is responsible for over one in 20 of all deaths worldwide, according to the most recent edition of a World Health Organisation (WHO) report that comes out every four years.

The Guardian writes that the report found that roughly three million deaths in 2016 can be attributed to alcohol, of which 2.3 million were men and 29 per cent were caused by injuries (including everything from accidents to car collisions and suicides) rather than health problems.

Other recorded causes of death included digestive disorders (21 per cent) and cardiovascular diseases (19 per cent), as well as "infectious diseases, cancers, mental disorders" and other conditions caused by alcohol intake, CNN added.

According to the WHO data, approximately 7.2 per cent of premature deaths worldwide are linked to alcohol, and as well as 5.3 of all deaths in general.

The Guardian wrote that WHO expert Dr. Vladimir Poznyak said governments are not doing enough to reduce alcohol consumption:

A WHO alcohol-control expert, Dr. Vladimir Poznyak, who was involved in the report, said the health burden of alcohol was "unacceptably large".

"Unfortunately, the implementation of the most effective policy options is lagging behind the magnitude of the problems," he said, adding that projections suggested both worldwide alcohol consumption and the related harms were set to rise in the coming years.

"Governments need to do more to meet the global targets and to reduce the burden of alcohol on societies; this is clear, and this action is either absent or not sufficient in most of the countries of the world," said Poznyak.

CNN wrote that the survey estimated 2.3 billion people across the planet consume alcohol, of whom some 237 million men and 46 million women have some type of disorder with a causal link to alcohol. The study also found that spirits constitute the highest percentage of alcohol consumed (45 per cent), with beer (34 per cent) and wine (12 per cent) falling behind.A

In the four years since the previous edition of the study, however, the proportion of deaths linked to alcohol dropped slightly from 5.9 per cent.

"In the last decade or so, there has been a steady reversal in thinking regarding the association of alcohol consumption with disease, specifically focused on challenging the preconception that moderate drinking has a net beneficial effect on health, and large efforts made to counteract the so-called binge drinking culture," University of Cambridge epidemiologist Steven Bell told CNN.

An enormous study recently published in the Lancet concluded that despite a longstanding popular impression (including in the medical community) that moderate alcohol consumption may be good for health, any gains are more than outweighed by the harms.

The lead author of that study, Max Griswold, told Gizmodo that "We found that there isn't really any benefit of drinking to your health... The safest level, from a health perspective, is not drinking at all."

According to that study, drinking two alcoholic beverages a day increases the risk of premature death by up to seven per cent.

According to the Guardian, Poznyak believes that the WHO study in fact underestimates the harms of drinking because it does not include data on children who begin drinking before the age of 15, which he said is common in "many countries."

[Guardian/CNN]

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