|WHO Report Urges Action to Reduce the Health Impact of Harmful Drinking|
Alcohol Consumption’s High Toll of Disease, Injuries and Death Outlined
Washington, DC, and Geneva , 11 February 2011 (PAHO/WHO)—A report launched today by the World Health Organization (WHO) calls for urgent action to reduce harmful alcohol use, which kills some 2.5 million people annually and contributes to nonfatal illnesses and injuries across the globe.
The Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health presents data collected in countries around the world about the impact of excessive and hazardous use of alcohol. The report notes that harmful use of alcohol is:
In the Americas, alcohol consumption is higher than the global average, and the typical consumption pattern is hazardous, says Dr. Maristela Monteiro, senior advisor on alcohol and substance abuse at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
“In the Americas, when people drink they tend to drink excessively. And unfortunately, in our region, women are catching up with men on consumption.”
Dr. Monteiro adds that alcohol has a disproportionate effect on young people in the Americas; it is the leading cause of death for 15- to 39-year-olds.
Alcohol is a significant contributor to the burden of disease in most countries, but its impact is not the same in all countries or regions. The highest consumption rates are found in developed countries, including eastern and western Europe, though not the highest rates of high-risk drinking.
Many eastern European countries have both high rates of consumption and risky drinking patterns, leading to increased alcohol-related deaths and disabilities. Abstention rates are high in North African and South Asian countries with large typically non-drinking populations.
The WHO report notes that harmful alcohol use is associated with risks not only to drinkers but also to others. “An intoxicated person can put people in harm’s way by involving them in traffic accidents or violent behavior, or by negatively affecting co-workers, relatives, friends or strangers. A survey in Australia found that two-thirds of respondents were adversely affected by someone else’s drinking in the past year,” the report notes.
A number of PAHO member countries have adopted policies aimed at reducing the harmful use of alcohol. Examples include:
Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization