Alcohol kills more than 2.5 million people each year, warns WHO

Alcohol kills more than 2.5 million people each year, warns WHO
Alcohol kills more than 2.5 million people each year, warns WHO

In 2019, 2.6 million people died from alcohol, according to the latest WHO report.

The highest proportion of these deaths affects 20-39 year olds.

Europe has the highest levels of individual consumption, with an average of 9.2 liters of alcohol per year per person.

A figure that is enough to make you look down: alcohol kills 2.6 million people each year around the world, according to a new report published Tuesday by the WHO. That is 1 in 20 deaths, including related violence, illnesses and road accidents. A number that remains “unacceptably high” despite a slight decline in recent years.

The latest available figures, which date back to 2019, indicate that 4.7% of deaths worldwide can be attributed to alcohol. And men are the first victims: they represent three quarters of these deaths. “Substance use seriously harms individual health, increases the risk of chronic illness and mental illness, and tragically results in millions of preventable deaths each year,” warns Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the institution.

In the report, he still points out “a certain reduction in alcohol consumption and related illnesses since 2010 worldwide”. More “health and social ills due to alcohol abuse, estimates the head of the WHO, remain unacceptably high.. He also emphasizes that young people are disproportionately affected. The highest proportion of deaths attributable to alcohol in 2019 is in the 20-39 age group, with 13% of deaths.

A tide of diseases

Cirrhosis, cancers, cardiovascular accidents… alcohol can trigger a multitude of diseases. Of the 2.6 million alcohol-related deaths in 2019, the report indicates that 1.6 million people died from non-communicable diseases, including 474,000 from cardiovascular diseases and 401,000 from cancer. An additional 724,000 deaths result from injuries, including road accidents and self-harm.

Alcohol abuse also makes people more vulnerable to infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, AIDS and pneumonia.

On average, a drinker consumed 27 grams of alcohol per day in 2019, according to the report. That’s roughly the equivalent of two glasses of wine, two beers, or two shots of hard liquor. “This level and frequency of consumption is associated with higher risks of catching many diseases, as well as mortality and disability” who accompany them, warns the WHO.

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Around 209 million people were living with alcohol dependence in 2019, or 3.7% of the world’s population. And it is in Europe that the highest levels of individual consumption are recorded: 9.2 liters of alcohol per person per year on average.


Yoanna HERRERA with AFP

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