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New Study Shows 1 in 25 Deaths Worldwide Related to Alcohol

Posted in Alcohol Abuse

Research from Canada’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) shows that worldwide, 1 in 25 deaths are directly attributed to alcohol consumption. Most of the deaths caused by alcohol were through injuries, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and liver cirrhosis.

CAMH’s Dr. Jürgen Rehm and his colleagues found that alcohol-related disorders are among the most disabling diseases, especially for men. In contrast to other traditional risk factors for disease, more young people affected than the older population.

The study showed that Europe had a high proportion of deaths related to alcohol, with one in ten deaths directly attributable to alcohol (up to 15% in the former Soviet Union). Alcohol consumption among adults in Europe is somewhat higher than in North America: 13 standard drinks per person per week compared to 10 to 11 standard drinks per person per week in North America. The global average is around 7 standard drinks per person per week (despite the fact that most of the adult population worldwide actually abstains from alcohol).

“Globally, the effect of alcohol on burden of disease is about the same size as that of smoking in 2000, but it is relatively greatest in emerging economies. Global consumption is increasing, especially in the most populous countries of India and China,” said Dr. Rehm.

CAMH is known for its research on the most effective ways to reduce harmful alcohol consumption. For example, in 2009 CAMH endorsed the legislative change requiring young Ontario drivers to maintain a 0% blood alcohol content. In many jurisdictions, this measure has reduced alcohol-related car accidents and has saved lives.

Other policies to reduce harms include pricing interventions on alcohol and outlet density restrictions, as well as more focused strategies such as violence reduction programs. In health care, provision of screening and brief interventions for high-risk drinkers has enormous potential to reduce alcohol-related deaths.

“There are significant social, health and economic problems caused by alcohol,” said Gail Czukar, CAMH’s executive vice-president, Policy, Education, and Health Promotion. “But research gives us sound, proven interventions that governments and health providers can use to address these problems.”

Dr. Rehm adds, “Today, we know more than ever about which strategies can effectively and cost-effectively control alcohol-related harms. Provided that our public policy makers act on these practical strategies expeditiously, we could see an enormous impact in reducing damage.”