Alcohol Third Leading Cause of Disease, Injury Worldwide


A study published this month in the journal Addiction shows that although most adults worldwide are teetotalers, alcohol use still accounts for a third of the disease and injuries among adults.

A press release about the study details some of the findings.

“Alcohol consumption has been found to cause more than 200 different diseases and injuries,” said Kevin Shield, the lead author of the study. “These include not only well-known outcomes of drinking such as liver cirrhosis or traffic accidents, but also several types of cancer, such as female breast cancer.”

Effects of alcohol consumption cross economic and political lines

The sheer number of diseases either caused or made worse by alcohol consumption reach across economic and political lines with developing countries in Sub-Saharan Africa on par with some European countries. Both Eastern Europe and Southern Sub-Saharan Africa were cited as having drinkers who abuse alcohol in the most damaging manner, either because of the quantities consumed or the manner of drinking, with binge drinking or drinking until getting drunk significant factors. “Safer” drinking habits would be consumption primarily with meals or in moderate amounts.

North America is not immune from criticism with Canada as a standout, where alcohol consumption is higher than 50 percent above world average and binging is more common as well.

Healthcare burden of alcohol exceeded by only smoking and high blood pressure

The study is from the Center for Addiction and Mental Health and used data also used to calculate other disease factors. Sixty-seven risk factors are considered, and the added burden to healthcare from alcohol is exceeded by only high blood pressure and tobacco use. However, despite the high ranking, alcohol is still only responsible for 5.5 of the overall burden on healthcare, meaning that if alcohol were suddenly to disappear, the gap would be largely filled by other factors.

More information about the World Health Organization’s Global Burden of Disease project can be found here.


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