3.3 million people died of excessive drinking in 2012: WHO report

Alcohol consumption rising in Southeast Asia and Western Pacific regions, stable in Europe, Americas and Africa

By Vibha Varshney
Published: Tuesday 13 May 2014

Indian male drinkers consume 32.1 litres of pure alcohol as against the global average of 17 litres (Credit: flickr.com)

As many as 3.3 million deaths in 2012 were due to excessive consumption of alcohol, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said in its report released on Monday. This is 5.9 per cent of the total deaths.

Alcohol consumption causes death and disability more among the young. As much as 25 per cent of the deaths among people in the age group of 20 to 39 can be attributed to alcohol.

Violence, injury, diseases

Other than intoxication resulting in violence and injury, alcohol consumption can result in 200 diseases, including liver cirrhosis and some cancers. Alcoholics are also susceptible to infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and pneumonia. In terms of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), 5.1 per cent of the global burden of disease and injury can be attributed to alcohol.

The report shows that per capita consumption of alcohol is increasing in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific regions. Consumption level is stable in European region, the Americas and Africa. Europe has the highest consumption of alcohol per capita in the world. On an average, every person in the world aged 15 years or older drinks 6.2 litres of pure alcohol in one year. But less than half of the population (38.3 per cent) actually drinks alcohol. This means those who drink, consume on an average 17 litres of pure alcohol annually.

Women more vulnerable

India surpasses this. In 2010, the total alcohol per capita consumption among drinkers is 32.1 litres for men and 10.6 litres for women. There is evidence that women are more vulnerable to some alcohol-related health conditions compared to men. Therefore, there is concern over the steady increase in alcohol use among women.

Stronger rules needed

To deal with the problem, WHO suggests strong measures. Some countries are already strengthening measures by increasing taxes, limiting availability of alcohol by raising the age limit and regulating the marketing of alcoholic beverages. As many as 66 WHO member states wrote down the national alcohol policies in 2012. The report also suggests that communities should be engaged in reducing harmful use of alcohol. “Lower-income groups are more affected by the social and health consequences of alcohol. They often lack quality healthcare and are less protected by functional family or community networks,” says Shekhar Saxena, director for Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO.

“More needs to be done to protect populations from the negative health consequences of alcohol consumption,” says Oleg Chestnov, WHO assistant director-general for Non-communicable Diseases and Mental Health. “The report clearly shows that there is no room for complacency when it comes to reducing the harmful use of alcohol.”

Report: Global status report on alcohol and health 2014

Feature: Contribution of six risk factors to achieving the 25×25 non-communicable disease mortality reduction target: a modelling study

Report: Risking your health: causes, consequences, and interventions to prevent risky behaviors

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