‘No safe level’ of alcohol consumption

The health risks associated with drinking are ‘massive’ and there is no safe level of alcohol use, according to a major new study published The Lancet. Almost 3m deaths worldwide were attributed to alcohol use in 2016, including 12 per cent of deaths for males aged 15-49, it states.

Researchers used data on all alcohol-related deaths and ‘related health outcomes’ for the study, which is part of the annual Global Burden of Disease (GBD) programme. It looked at figures for almost 200 countries over a 26-year period for consumption levels, deaths and more than 20 alcohol-related conditions including cirrhosis, pancreatitis, cancers and cardiovascular diseases.

Globally, more than 2bn people were ‘current drinkers’ in 2016, more than 60 per cent of whom were male. Seven of the ten countries with the highest death rates were in Eastern Europe, the Baltic or Central Asia – Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, Mongolia, Latvia and Kazakhstan – while eight of the ten lowest death rates were in the Middle East.

‘The health risks associated with alcohol are massive,’ said the study’s senior author, Dr Emmanuela Gakidou. ‘Our findings are consistent with other recent research, which found clear and convincing correlations between drinking and premature death, cancer, and cardiovascular problems.

‘Zero alcohol consumption minimises the overall risk of health loss. With the largest collected evidence base to date, our study makes the relationship between health and alcohol clear – drinking causes substantial health loss, in myriad ways, all over the world. There is a compelling and urgent need to overhaul policies to encourage either lowering people’s levels of alcohol consumption or abstaining entirely.’

Read the study here

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