Despite growing awareness of the health problems caused by alcohol, 3.3 million people worldwide died from the drug in 2012. This is an increase of 800,000 since 2011 and a real worry for the World Health Organisation who compiled the numbers.
In their report, the WHO found 16% of drinkers binge drink. That might not sound very high but when combined with consumption statistics, it becomes very worrying. The per-capital alcohol consumption was highest in Europe but the average consumption globally was 6.2 litres of alcohol per person for every person over 15. That works out to about 22 standard sized bottles of 40% ABV vodka.
If you assume that a great many people do not drink and even more drink very little, it becomes very clear that there is a substantial group of people in society who are consuming a truly epic amount of alcohol. In fact, the WHO estimates that only about 38% of the world population drink alcohol.
Breaking down the death toll, the WHO found that 7.6% of men who died in 2012 had an alcohol related cause of death. That is compared to 4% of women who died in 2012.
The people who drink the most are often the ones who have the least access to help. "Lower-income groups are more affected by the social and health consequences of alcohol," Dr. Shekhar Saxena, director for mental health and substance abuse at WHO, said in a press release. "They often lack quality health care and are less protected by functional family or community networks."
To help address the worldwide alcohol problem, the WHO has recommended governments take a more proactive approach to alcohol awareness, treatment and safety. Currently, there are only 66 countries that have a national organisation to help fight alcohol addiction. Without more work being done, the cost of alcohol abuse could continue to spiral out of control.
To learn more about alcohol addiction check out the Life Works Knowledge Centre.