There were 3.3 million alcohol-related deaths worldwide in 2012 according to the last global status report from the World Health Organization (WHO). Those numbers translate to one death every 10 seconds. The numbers have increased from 2.5 million in 2011. The report presents an overview of the consumption of alcohol and its consequences, both in terms of health and in relation to public policy, for 194 member nations.
Just over 38 percent of the worldwide population drinks alcohol, consuming about 4.49 gallons on average every year. The highest consumption of alcohol was found in Europe, which has maintained the top spot for the last five years. The numbers for alcohol use have remained steady in North and South America and Africa, but increased in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands.
About 16 percent of the people who consume alcohol often binge drink, which is when someone drinks heavily in a short period of time. Binge drinking is dangerous and the most harmful to health. The report found that it is more prevalent among lower income populations.
The study also found that men were more likely to die from an alcohol-related issue than women. The report indicated that 7.6 percent of men, but only 4 percent of women had died as a result of alcohol, but found that the numbers for women were on the rise.
The WHO noted that socio-economic factors play a part in alcohol consumption. People who have lower incomes are more likely to be affected by the consequences of drinking. They have less access to healthcare and support networks of family and the community.
People who drink alcohol regularly increase their risk of becoming dependent on it. They also increase their chances of developing over 200 diseases, including cirrhosis of the liver and some forms of cancer. It also makes them more likely to get infectious diseases like tuberculous and pneumonia.
The organization would like to see the number of deaths linked to alcohol decrease by 10 percent in 2025. They say that government leadership needs to do more to address the problem. Only 66 countries have developed policies to address alcohol abuse. These policies include enforcing age restrictions, implementing taxes on alcohol and controlling how alcohol is marketed.
Other actions need to be taken as well, according to the WHO, including raising awareness regarding the harmful effects of excessive drinking. Over the 194 countries, nearly 140 of them have participated in at least one activity over the past three years. They also believe that healthcare providers should be able to provide preventative and treatment services for patients and their families.
Harmful alcohol consumption was identified as one of the four common risk factors contributing to the non-communicable diseases (NCDs) epidemic during the 2011 United Nations General Assembly meeting. Members agreed that raising awareness should be a top priority for governments and that more action needs to be taken to prevent alcohol-related deaths.
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