There is no safe level of drinking, according to a study which found that nearly three million deaths globally in 2016 were attributed to alcohol consumption. The study, published in The Lancet journal, analysed alcohol use and its impact on health for 195 countries and territories.
“The health risks associated with alcohol are massive,” said Emmanuela Gakidou from the University of Washington in the US. “Our findings are consistent with other recent research, which found clear and convincing correlations between drinking and premature death, cancer, and cardiovascular problems,” Gakidou said.
For years, experts have said that moderate drinking — defined as up to a drink per day for women and up to two per day for men — probably is not bad for overall health. “Zero alcohol consumption minimises the overall risk of health loss,” Gakidou said.
The study shows that in 2016, nearly three million deaths globally were attributed to alcohol use, including 12 per cent of deaths in males between the ages of 15 and 49. The research does not distinguish between beer, wine, and liquor due to a lack of evidence when estimating the disease burden, Gakidou said.
However, the researchers used data on all alcohol-related deaths generally and related health outcomes to determine their conclusions. Alcohol use patterns vary widely by country and by sex, the average consumption per drinker, and the attributable disease burden.
Globally, more than two billion people were current drinkers in 2016; 63% were male, researchers said. The study, part of the annual Global Burden of Disease (GBD), assessed alcohol-related health outcomes and patterns between 1990 and 2016 for 195 countries and territories and by age and sex. In 2016, eight of the leading 10 countries with lowest death rates attributable to alcohol use among 15- to 49-year-olds were in the Middle East.
The other two were Maldives and Singapore, researchers said. Conversely, seven of the leading 10 countries with highest death rates were in the Baltic, Eastern European, or Central Asian regions. The other three were Lesotho, Burundi, and Central African Republic.
“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,” said Max Griswold, lead author of the study.