Global Alcohol Problem Massive and Growing

alcohol and healthA new study shows that alcohol is not the third highest cause of the global burden of disease and injury.

The study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) shows that, despite most adults worldwide abstaining from drinking, there is an ever growing among of harm that comes from alcohol.

"Alcohol consumption has been found to cause more than 200 different diseases and injuries," said Kevin Shield, the lead author of the study. "These include not only well-known outcomes of drinking such as liver cirrhosis or traffic accidents, but also several types of cancer, such as female breast cancer."

The study also discovered distinct differences in drinking by region. People in Europe and areas of Sub-Saharan Africa are the world’s heaviest drinkers while people in Eastern Europe and Southern Sub-Saharan Africa consumed alcohol in the unhealthiest manner. These people were the most likely to drink large amounts of alcohol frequently and drink to intoxication. These people also engaged in prolonged binges and drank mostly outside of meal times.

In contrast, people from North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia drank the least.

In North American and particularly in Canada people drank 50% more than the global average. North Americans also engaged in more dangerous drinking habits like binging.

These patterns of dangerous drinking have pushed the numbers of alcohol related illness and death up to 5.5% of the overall burden of global disease and injury. It is second only to high blood pressure and tobacco smoking among the 67 risk factors measured. More worrying is the fact that researchers discovered nearly 30% of all alcohol consumed was unrecorded, which includes things like home brewed alcohol, alcohol not intended for consumption and illegally produced alcohol. In some places this can account for more than half of all the alcohol consumed.

"The amount of unrecorded alcohol consumed is a particular problem, as its consumption is not impacted by public health alcohol policies, such as taxation, which can moderate consumption," said Dr. Jürgen Rehm, a study author and director of CAMH's Social and Epidemiological Research Department.”

"Improving alcohol control policies presents one of the greatest opportunities to prevent much of the health burden caused by alcohol consumption," said Dr. Shield "To improve these policies, information on how much alcohol people are consuming, and how people are consuming alcohol is necessary, and that is exactly the information this article presents."

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