Sunday, June 28, 2009
1 in 25 Global Deaths Linked to Alcohol
Vodka kills more Russians than war, Lancet reports.
A team of researchers at the University of Toronto reported in Lancet that 3.8 % of global deaths could be attributed to alcohol. In Europe, the report stated, the rate of premature death from alcohol was 1 in 10 during 2004, the year studied. And in a related study, more than half of all premature deaths among adult males in Russia were attributable to booze.
The world health care burden, as spelled out by Dr. Jurgen Rehm and others at the University of Toronto, is staggering: “The costs associated with alcohol amount to more than 1% of the gross national product in high-income and middle-income countries, with the costs of social harm constituting a major proportion in addition to health costs.”
In a BBC News report,the study authors warned that the worldwide effect of alcohol-related disease was similar to that of smoking in prior decades. The report takes note of prior research indicating a health benefit from moderate drinking, stressing that any purported benefit is “far outweighed by the detrimental effects of alcohol on disease and injury.”
The Lancet study concludes that the overall mortality figures are “not surprising since global consumption is increasing, especially in the most populous countries of India and China.”
Professor Ian Gilmore of the Royal College of Physicians, quoted by the BBC, called the report “a global wake-up call,” and urged the adoption of “evidence-based measures” for reducing alcohol-related harm, such as price increases and advertising bans. “Many countries are investigating new ways to cut deaths and disease and reduce the burden on health services by using the price of alcohol to lower consumption,” Gilmore said. Pricing strategies have been used effectively in the past to lower cigarette consumption, researchers have noted.
In one of the Russian studies, Professor Richard Peto of the University of Oxford led a statistical analyses, concluding: “If current Russian death rates continue, then about 5% of all young women and 25% of all young men will die before age 55 years from the direct or indirect effects of drinking.” The Russian figures are also affected by the high rate of associated smoking in the former Soviet Union.
Peto added: “When Russian alcohol sales decreased by about a quarter, overall mortality of people of working age immediately decreased by nearly a quarter. This shows that when people who are at high risk of death from alcohol do change their habits, they immediately avoid most of the risk.”
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