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Harmful Alcohol Use Kills More Than 3 Million A Year Globally, New WHO Report Says

A report by the World Health Organization says more than 3 million people died in 2016 from harmful alcohol use.
A report by the World Health Organization says more than 3 million people died in 2016 from harmful alcohol use.

The harmful use of alcohol killed more than 3 million people in 2016, representing 1-in-20 deaths worldwide, a new study by the World Health Organization (WHO) says.

The Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health 2018, published on September 21 by the Geneva-based UN organization, also said that drinking rates in countries such as Russia, Moldova, and Belarus show signs of decline over the past decade.

The report said that globally, more than three-fourths of the deaths from alcohol use were among men.

“Far too many people, their families, and communities suffer the consequences of the harmful use of alcohol through violence, injuries, mental health problems, and diseases like cancer and stroke,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director-general.

Of the deaths, 28 percent were due to injuries, such as traffic accidents; 21 percent were from digestive disorders; 19 percent from cardiovascular diseases; and the rest from infectious diseases, cancers, mental disorders, and other health conditions, it said.

“Globally, an estimated 237 million men and 46 million women suffer from alcohol-use disorders, with the highest prevalence among men and women in the European region,” it said, adding that alcohol-use disorders are more common in high-income countries.

The report estimated that 2.3 billion people drink alcohol, with more than half of the population in three regions -- the Americas, Europe and the Western Pacific -- consuming alcohol.

In individual countries, the WHO said the sharpest decreases in consumption over the past decade were found in the formerly highest-consuming nations such as Russian (from 18.7 liters in 2005 to 11.7 liters in 2016), Moldova (from 21.6 liters in 2005 to 15.1 liters in 2016), and Belarus (from 15.3 liters in 2005 to 11.2 liters in 2016).

But it warned that “heavy episodic drinking” -- defined as 60 or more grams of pure alcohol on at least one single occasion at least once per month -- remained “very high” in Russia at about 60 percent of current drinkers.

The average daily consumption of those who drink is 33 grams of pure alcohol a day, the equivalent of about two 150-milliliter glasses of wine, a 750-milliliter bottle of beer or two 40-milliliter shots of spirits.

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