Special Reports

Alcohol Abuse Led to 3 Million Deaths in 2012, WHO Report


Over 3 million people lost their lives in 2012 due to alcohol abuse, according to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report.

The WHO officials are urging governments to increase awareness on alcohol-related ills. Certain countries have already implemented policies such as imposing taxes on alcohol, increasing the legal drinking age and regulating the marketing of alcoholic beverages.

"More needs to be done to protect people from the negative consequences of alcohol consumption," said Dr Oleg Chestnov, WHO Assistant Director-General for Non-communicable Diseases and Mental Health, in a statement. "The report clearly shows that there is no room for complacency when it comes to reducing the harmful use of alcohol."

Alcohol use increases dependence, heightens risk of developing over 200 diseases (including liver cirrhosis and some types of cancer among others) and makes people vulnerable to infectious diseases like tuberculosis and pneumonia. It should not be forgotten that alcohol also makes people violent and they end up hurting themselves and others.

The 'Global status report on alcohol and health 2014' reveals alcohol exploitation, impact on public health and policy responses in 194 WHO member states. The analyses show that alcohol consumption has remained constant over the past five years in Europe, Africa and the Americas, whereas it is rising in South-east Asia and the Western Pacific.

The report also found that alcohol-connected deaths were observed more in men (7.6 percent) than women (4 percent); although there is proof that women are more susceptible to certain alcohol-related health conditions. The authors also discovered a steady rise in alcohol consumption among women.

The report also states that on an average people aged 15 years and above, consume 6.2 litres of pure alcohol per year. As globally  less than half the population (38.3 percent) is associated with drinking alcohol the average consumption goes up to 17 litres of pure alcohol annually.

"We found that worldwide, about 16 percent of the drinkers engage in heavy episodic drinking - often referred to as 'binge-drinking' - which is the most harmful to health," said Dr Shekhar Saxena, Director for Mental Health and Substance Abuse at the WHO. "Lower-income groups are more affected by the social and health consequences of alcohol. They often lack quality healthcare and are less protected by functional family or community networks."

The report stated that Europe has the largest concentration of heavy drinkers with some of its countries being identified with high rates of risky drinking.

A recent Oxford University study in January 2014 found that vodka was the main cause of early deaths in Russia. Researchers said that 25 percent of Russian men die before the age of 55 compared to 7 percent in the U.K. due to excessive drinking. Some of the participants in the study admitted to drinking three or more bottles of vodka a week.

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