DURBAN - Alcohol remains one of the world’s most deadliest substances, with one in ten adults dying from alcohol-related problems annually globally.
The latest Global Burden of Disease study published in The Lancet medical journal, said 2.8 million deaths that occur each year were linked to alcohol consumption.
The study said one in three people drink alcohol (equivalent to 2.4 billion people), and the highest number of current alcohol drinkers was in Denmark, where 95.3% of women, and 97.1% men consumed alcohol, while the country with the lowest consumption was Pakistan for men at 0.8% and Bangladesh for women, at 0.3%.
Men in Romania and women in the Ukraine drank the most, with 8.2 and 4.2 drinks a day respectively.
The study also revealed that that there was no “safe level” for alcohol consumption.
“The study used data from 694 studies to estimate how common drinking alcohol was worldwide and used 592 studies including 28 million people worldwide to study the health risks associated with alcohol between 1990 to 2016 in 195 countries. In the study, a standard alcoholic drink is defined as 10g alcohol,” said Dr Max Griswold, of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in the USA.
“Although the health risks associated with alcohol start off being small with one drink a day, they then rise rapidly as people drink more,” said Griswold.
The new study used alcohol sales data with the prevalence of alcohol drinking and abstinence, self-reported data on the amount of alcohol drank, tourism data to estimate the number of alcohol-drinking visitors to an area, and estimating levels of illicit trade and home brewing.
In people aged 15-49 years old, alcohol was the leading risk factor in 2016, with 3.8% of deaths in women and 12.2% of deaths in men attributable to alcohol.
The main causes of alcohol-related deaths in this age group were tuberculosis (1.4% of deaths), road injuries (1.2%), and self-harm (1.1%).
Professor Emmanuela Gakidou, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, University of Washington, USA, said: “Alcohol poses dire ramifications for future population health in the absence of policy action today. Our results indicate that alcohol use and its harmful effects on health could become a growing challenge as countries become more developed, and enacting or maintaining strong alcohol control policies will be vital.”
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“Worldwide we need to revisit alcohol control policies and health programmes, and to consider recommendations for abstaining from alcohol. These include excise taxes on alcohol, controlling the physical availability of alcohol and the hours of sale, and controlling alcohol advertising. Any of these policy actions would contribute to reductions in population-level consumption, a vital step toward decreasing the health loss associated with alcohol use,” she said.