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WHO: Alcohol Kills Nearly 3 Million People Every Year Globally

The World Health Organization (WHO) has released a report detailing the consequences of alcohol and drug use across the globe. The data shows the critical public health crisis with millions of lives lost and health burdens placed on societies particularly in low-income regions.

WHO: Alcohol Kills Nearly 3 Million People Every Year Globally

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Nearly three million deaths annually are linked to alcohol and drug use. This number represents a huge proportion of global mortality.

Alcohol alone accounts for 2.6 million deaths each year, constituting 4.7% of all global deaths in 2019. These deaths are attributed to a range of causes including diseases, accidents and violence.

The burden of alcohol-related deaths is disproportionately borne by males, who accounted for nearly 2 million deaths. In contrast, females accounted for 0.6 million alcohol-attributable deaths.

A 13% of alcohol-related deaths in 2019 occurred among young adults aged 20-39.

The highest alcohol-related death rates are reported from low-income countries. This contrasts with high-income countries where better access to healthcare mitigates some of the fatal outcomes associated with alcohol use.

An estimated 400 million people globally or 7% of those aged 15 years and older are affected by alcohol use disorders. This includes around 209 million people living with alcohol dependence, representing 3.7% of the adult population.

In 2019, 17% of the global population aged 15+ engaged in binge drinking, defined as consuming at least 60 grams of pure alcohol in one sitting.

Among current drinkers, 38% reported binge drinking with men showing a particularly high prevalence of continuous heavy drinking (6.7%).

On average, drinkers consume 27 grams of pure alcohol daily, an amount associated with increased risks of various health conditions and mortality.

The prevalence of alcohol consumption among 15-19-year-olds was high at 22% worldwide with minimal differences between genders.

Europe showed the highest per capita alcohol consumption at 9.2 liters, followed by the Americas at 7.5 liters. Muslim countries in Northern Africa, the Middle East and Asia exhibited the lowest levels of alcohol consumption.

Alcohol use is linked to 1.6 million deaths from non-communicable diseases including 474,000 deaths from cardiovascular diseases and 401,000 from cancer.

Injuries due to alcohol consumption led to 724,000 deaths including traffic accidents, self-harm and violence-related fatalities.

Alcohol use increases the risk of contracting infectious diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis contributing to 284,000 deaths annually.

Regular alcohol consumption is associated with chronic diseases like liver cirrhosis and mental health disorders.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a shift in global alcohol consumption, with an estimated 10% relative reduction in consumption from 2019 to 2020.

In regions like South-East Asia, particularly India, alcohol consumption increased steadily until the onset of the pandemic.

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The economic burden of alcohol and drug use includes healthcare costs, loss of productivity and social costs related to accidents and violence.

Globally unrecorded alcohol consumption accounts for 21% of total alcohol consumption with higher levels in wealthier regions.

Approximately 400 million people worldwide suffer from alcohol and drug use disorders. Of these, 209 million people are affected by alcohol dependence.

Alcohol consumption is linked to 1.6 million deaths from noncommunicable diseases including cardiovascular diseases (474,000 deaths) and cancers (401,000 deaths). Alcohol-related injuries account for 724,000 deaths including those from traffic accidents, self-harm and violence.

Alcohol increases the risk of communicable diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis (TB) by compromising immune responses leading to 284,000 deaths.

Global per capita alcohol consumption decreased slightly from 5.7 liters in 2010 to 5.5 liters in 2019. The highest levels of alcohol consumption per capita were found in the WHO European Region (9.2 liters) and the Region of the Americas (7.5 liters).

On average, current drinkers consume 27 grams of pure alcohol per day, roughly equivalent to two glasses of wine, two bottles of beer or two servings of spirits.

In 2019, 38% of current drinkers engaged in heavy episodic drinking consuming at least 60 grams of pure alcohol in a single occasion.

About 23.5% of 15–19-year-olds were current drinkers with the highest rates observed in the European Region (45.9%) and the Americas (43.9%).

Access to treatment for substance use disorders remains extremely limited with coverage ranging from less than 1% to a maximum of 35% in reporting countries.

WHO advocates for stronger regulations on alcohol including measures to control unrecorded alcohol consumption and reduce the availability of alcoholic beverages.

The report calls for accelerated global action to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 3.5, which aims to reduce the harmful use of alcohol and improve access to treatment for substance use disorders by 2030.

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