The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health 2014 was recently published.
The organization found that alcohol-related deaths seem to be increasing worldwide. In 2012 it is estimated there were 3.3 million alcohol induced deaths, or about 5.9 percent of the total deaths in the world. That’s 800,000 more deaths than the 2.5 million in 2005.
The TB-HIV Connection
In contrast approximately 1.6 million people lost their lives to AIDs in 2012, and 1.3 million died of tuberculosis (TB).
TB is one of the leading causes of death among AIDs patients. And WHO also mentions that severe alcoholism increases the risk of TB and HIV.
According to WHO, less than half the world’s population even drinks alcohol at 38.3 percent. Researchers estimate that approximately 5.1 percent of the health problems in the world can be attributed to the excessive consumption of alcohol. About 16 percent of drinkers admitted to binge drinking, which is classified as having more than four to five alcoholic beverages within two hours. More men die from alcoholism at 7.6 percent while women were at 4 percent. However females are more vulnerable to related medical conditions and other deleterious effects.
Which country drinks the most alcohol? This year first place goes to Belarus, whose drinkers consume an average of 14.37 liters of pure alcohol per year. (That’s when you factor out all of the additional ingredients in wine, beer and liquor.) Most of the heavy drinking countries are in Europe and Russia. Andorra came in second and Lithuania third. The UK was 24th.
The US was the 38th drunkest nation, coming in after Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
In comparison the US was the 38th drunkest nation, coming in after Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that about 51.3 percent of Americans are current regular drinkers, and 12.9 percent are infrequent drinkers. One in six adults in the US binge drinks about four times per month. Most US drinkers are 18 to 34 years old, which is the case in most other countries as well.
How Can We Inspire Change?
Dr. Oleg Chestnov, the WHO Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health, stated to the press, “More needs to be done to protect populations from the negative health consequences of alcohol consumption.” He continued, “The report clearly shows that there is no room for complacency when it comes to reducing the harmful use of alcohol.”
In the report WHO outlines an approach to alcohol policy that could reduce the number of deaths. The committee emphasizes that drinkers are sensitive to price changes. Higher taxes may discourage people from drinking heavily. They also recommend awareness raising activities and marketing restrictions for young people. There is some thought that warning labels may help.
However these measures fail to account for home distilleries, as well as poorer nations where such laws could cause criminal activity and general dissent. It is interesting to note that alcoholism soared in Russia following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It could be that the rise in alcohol-related deaths this year correlates to general hardship or other world events.
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