Research on alcohol consumption has largely taken place in high-income countries, such as the United…
Alcohol Is Killing Millions Around the Globe
According to a recent World Health Organization (WHO) report, more than 3 million people died as a result of alcohol consumption in 2012. That translates to one life every 10 seconds worldwide.
Just How Much Are People Drinking?
The amount of pure alcohol consumed annually around the globe works out to 6.2 liters for every individual on the planet over the age of 15. However, since fewer than 50 percent of people in the world even drink alcohol, the reality is that a relatively few number of people are drinking a relatively large amount of alcohol. The 2014 WHO report finds that 16 percent of those who do drink, drink a lot. Binge drinking, defined as four or more drinks for a woman and five or more drinks for a man, is a worldwide problem. Instead of the 6.2 liter average, the actual figures are more like 17 liters per drinker per year.
Who Are the Heavy Drinkers?
So who is drinking all this alcohol? Europeans are the biggest consumers of alcohol. Alcohol consumption appears to be on the rise in the Eastern Pacific and in Southeast Asia. Drinking in China, for example, is expected to increase by 1.5 liters per capita by the year 2025. Women, too, are drinking more alcohol. Looking over the past five years, the amount of alcohol being consumed in North and South America and Africa remains mostly unchanged.
Why Should We Care?
Apart from the number of preventable deaths caused by heavy alcohol use there are other reasons to care about how much alcohol the world consumes. Addiction is a genuine threat. Addiction harms not only individual lives, but families, careers and communities. Heavy alcohol use also contributes to many serious health risks. Unfortunately, the poor are most at risk for alcohol related health problems and the many social ills associated with drinking.
What Can We Do?
If there were a virus killing 3.3 million people each year, society would take swift and certain action. Alcohol is claiming lives and the WHO is urging communities to respond. Public education campaigns, prevention programs and funding for intervention strategies could all make a difference. The WHO has set a 10 percent drop in dangerous alcohol use as a 10-year (2025) goal.