Report Says Three Million Deaths a Year Are Related to Alcohol

Happy Monday: a new report from the World Health Organization says that alcohol is responsible for 3.3 million deaths, 5.9 percent of global deaths, every year. 

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A new report from the World Health Organization says that alcohol is responsible for 3.3 million deaths every single year, or 5.9 percent of all deaths globally. The WHO has counted more than 200 health conditions related to alcohol consumption, which also makes people more susceptible to diseases like HIV/AIDS, cancer, and pneumonia.

While the WHO says there has been some progress since the last report on alcohol was published in 2011,  they say “there is no room for complacency given the enormous public health burden attributable to alcohol consumption.”

Chart from the World Health Organization

Europe has the largest percentage of alcohol consumption of any region in the world. But while the financial cost of alcohol consumption in the European Union in 2009 was an estimated $172.11 billion, in the United States, alcohol abuse cost the economy $233.5 billion in 2006. Levels of drinking in Europe, Africa, and the Americas has remained steady for the last 5 years, but South-East Asia and the Western Pacific have reported increased drinking. Lower-income countries have higher rates of pure alcohol consumption than higher income countries, the report finds.

Chart from the World Health Organization
One of the report's most striking finds is the difference gender makes when it comes to alcohol-related illness. The WHO reports that 7.6 percent of global deaths among men were attributable to alcohol, and harmful alcohol use is the leading risk factor among men aged 15-59. For women, that number drops to 4 percent of global deaths, and there is particular concern that women are steadily drinking more alcohol, a rise alongside "economic development and changing gender roles.”
“We found that worldwide about 16% of drinkers engage in heavy episodic drinking - often referred to as ‘binge-drinking’ - which is the most harmful to health,” said Dr. Shekhar Saxena, Director for Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO. "Lower-income groups are more affected by the social and health consequences of alcohol. They often lack quality health care and are less protected by functional family or community networks.” 

While the report finds that people over the age of 15 drink an average of 6.2 liters of pure alcohol every year, that number more than doubles to 17 liters a years considering less than half the global population drinks alcohol.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.