Languages:
Home » Alcohol » Level 2 » Question 1

Alcohol

1. Introduction - How many people are affected by alcohol?

    Half a pint of beer on bar table
    Half a pint of beer on bar table

    About 2 billion people worldwide consume alcoholic drinks, which can have immediate and long term consequences on health and social life. Over 76 million people are currently affected by alcohol use disorders, such as alcohol dependence and abuse. Depending on the amount of alcohol consumed and the pattern of drinking, alcohol consumption can lead to drunkenness and alcohol dependence. It can result in disablement or death from accidents or contribute to depression and suicide. Moreover, it can cause chronic illnesses such as cancer and liver disease in those who drink heavily for many years.

    Alcohol causes 1.8 million deaths a year, which represents 3.2% of all deaths worldwide. Unintenional injuries account for about a third of the deaths from alcohol. Alcohol is the third most common cause of death in developed countries. In the limited number of developing countries where overall mortality is low, alcohol is the leading cause of illness and disease.

    Damage to human life is often described in terms of loss of “disability-adjusted life years” (DALYs). This measure takes into account the number of years lost due to premature deaths as well as the years spent living with disability.

    Worldwide, alcohol causes a loss of 58.3 million DALYs annually, which represents 4% of the total loss of DALYs from all causes. Mental disorders and diseases of the nervous system account for about 40% of DALYs lost because of alcohol.

    Drinking patterns vary greatly from country to country and so do health impacts and policy responses.

    For country specific information, see the Global Alcohol Database:
    www.who.int/topics/alcohol_drinking/en/ 

    This text is a summary of: WHO Global Status Report on Alcohol 2004
     Introduction, p.1-2