It was with great joy that I learned that the World Health Organization announced it would initiate a global effort to combat alcohol use and abuse. The WHO has been instrumental in eradicating a number of diseases and it is about time its focused its efforts on alcohol disease.
For those of you who doubt the problem, more than four out of every hundred people who die on this planet die due to alcohol use!
Just how much does the world actually drink? It is quite astonishing actually.
Worldwide consumption in 2005 was equal to 1.62 gallons of pure alcohol consumed per person aged 15 years or older. A large portion of this consumption – 28.6% or about a half-gallon per person – was homemade, illegally produced or sold outside normal government controls.
What makes these numbers so astonishing is that despite widespread consumption, a higher percentage of people currently do not drink at all. Almost half of all men and two thirds of women have not consumed alcohol in the past year.
With respect to socio-economic consumption, countries high-income also have high consumption. The areas where drinking is lightest are North African and South Asian countries with large Muslim populations.
A key factor when looking at alcohol disease as a global problem are abstention rates. These are some of the strongest predictors of the magnitude of alcohol-attributable burden of disease and injuries in populations.
Obviously, lifetime abstention from alcohol means exemption from personal alcohol-attributable disease, injury and death. Experts make sure to keep an eye on abstinence trends as they could have a big impact on the global burden of disease caused by the harmful use of alcohol.