By Jane Cowan, an ABC correspondent based in Washington.
13 May 2014
More than 3 million people died from consuming alcohol in 2012, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), who are calling on governments around the world to do more to reduce harmful drinking. Drinking kills more men than women and raises the risk of developing more than 200 diseases. Oleg Chestnov, a WHO chronic disease and mental health expert, says there is “no room for complacency”. “More needs to be done to protect populations from the negative health consequences of alcohol consumption,” he said. The WHO says less than half of the global population drinks, but those who do consume on average 17 litres of pure alcohol each year.
“We found that worldwide about 16 per cent of drinkers engage in heavy episodic drinking – often referred to as ‘binge drinking’ – which is the most harmful to health,” said Shekhar Saxena, WHO director for mental health and substance abuse. Mr Saxena says poorer people are generally more affected by the social and health consequences of alcohol. “They often lack quality health care and are less protected by functional family or community networks,” he said.
A study from Harvard Medical School has found there are differences between men and women in how Alcoholics Anonymous can help people to abstain from alcohol. The global status report on alcohol and health covered 194 countries and looked at alcohol consumption, its impact on public health and policy responses. The report found some countries were already limiting alcohol availability by raising taxes, age limits and regulating marketing. However, the organisation says more countries should take similar action, and more needed to be done to raise awareness of the damage alcohol can do to people’s health. Globally, Europe is home to the biggest drinkers, with some of its countries having particularly high rates of harmful drinking.
A study published earlier this year found that a quarter of all Russian men die before they reach their mid-50s, largely from drinking to excess. Some men in that study reported drinking three or more bottles of vodka a week. The WHO said global trend analyses showed that drinking has been stable over the past five years in Europe, Africa and the Americas, but it is growing in south-east Asia and the western Pacific.
Men affected by alcohol more than women in Australia
Data on the alcohol consumption of Australians from 2010 showed that drinking affected males much more than women.
Red wine ingredient no magic
The notion that people who drink red wine can somehow avoid the pitfalls of a high-fat diet is flawed, suggests a new study. It showed that about 11 per cent of the Australian population aged 15 years and older were heavy drinkers. Males consumed just under 20 litres of alcohol each on average, which was over twice the amount of women, who drank 9 litres each on average. Disorders relating to alcohol use also affected more than double the amount of men than women, with 5 per cent of men affected compared to just over 2 per cent of women. Drinking was attributed to about 12 per cent of road traffic accidents for males, compared to about 5 per cent for females. The data revealed that 10 per cent of Australians were lifetime abstainers. It also showed that 6 per cent of people who were previously drinkers had abstained from alcohol in 2009.