The World Health Organization’s (WHO) latest report reveals a startling number of deaths in 2016 that are attributed to the harmful use of alcohol. Despite the positive changes in global trends when it comes to episodic drinking, the burden of disease and deaths caused by alcohol remains unacceptably high.

WHO Report

Worldwide, there are about 237 million men and 46 million women who suffer from alcohol-use disorders, particularly among the men and women in Europe and the Americas. According to WHO’s latest Global status report on alcohol and health, in 2016, over 3 million people died as a result of harmful alcohol consumption. This means that such deaths represent 1 in 20 deaths, over three quarters of which were among men. Harmful alcohol use is now 5 percent of the global disease burden.

Of the deaths, 28 percent were related to injuries such as self-harm, interpersonal violence, and those from traffic crashes, while 21 percent were related to digestive disorders, and 19 percent of the deaths were attributed to cardiovascular disease. The remaining percentage comprises of cancers, infectious diseases, mental health disorders, and other conditions.

More Alcohol Users In The Next 10 Years

Despite the positive changes in global trends when it comes to heavy drinking and alcohol-related deaths since 2010, WHO notes that the overall burden caused by harmful alcohol consumption remains high, especially in the European and American regions.

Worldwide, it is believed that there are 2.3 billion people who are current drinkers, with Europe having the highest per capita consumption in the world despite having already decreased by 10 percent since 2010. WHO projections expect that number to continue to increase in the coming 10 years, especially in Western Pacific Regions, South-East Asia, and the Americas.

'Step Up Action'

According to WHO’s Coordinator of Management of Substance Abuse unit, Dr. Vladimir Poznyak, proven cost-effective ways to reduce alcohol consumption include placing higher taxes on alcoholic drinks, as well as restricting advertising and availability of alcohol.

So far, 95 percent of countries have excise taxes on alcohol and have placed restrictions on advertising. Despite the higher alcohol taxes, however, less than 50 percent of those countries also adopted policies such as the banning of volume discounts and below-cost selling. Further, while advertisements on the television and radio are restricted, those on the internet and on social media are less restricted and regulated.

“It’s time to step up action to prevent this serious threat to the development of healthy societies,” said WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, stating that many people, families, and communities are affected by the harmful consequences of alcohol use.

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