The World Health Organization estimates that some 3.3 million people were killed by alcohol last year. To put that into perspective, this means that one person is dying about every ten seconds from alcohol. So by the time you’ve read this sentence, at least another person has died from booze.
Alcohol has been linked to numerous diseases, including various forms of cancer, so it should come as no surprise that it is linked to numerous deaths. Alcohol abuse also makes people more susceptible to many serious diseases, including HIV and tuberculosis. As such, alcohol could represent a serious public health problem.
Given that many countries are already struggling to pay for expensive medical systems, alcohol could become a major strain on national finances.
Europe home to the biggest alcohol drinkers
Despite what you might think, the United States isn’t home to the world’s most serious drinkers, nor does the country suffer from the most deaths. That distinction goes to Europe, with Eastern Europe in particular being home to some of the most drinking related deaths in the world.
In fact, in Russia as many as one in four adult males dies from a drinking related disease or complication. So it appears that they aren’t exaggerating when they say that Russians drink vodka like water. With death rates so high, alcohol is a serious burden for many countries, including Russia.
Asia, however, actually represents the fastest growing region. While Europe and North America have both leveled off in terms of the number of people who drink and how much they drink, fast emerging countries are seeing alcohol consumption boom. The logic is simple enough, people have more money and many are choosing to spend their money on booze.
The WHO calls for action
In the recently released report, the World Health Organization urged governments to step up and combat the issue. Among other recommendations, the WHO called for governments to raise taxes, which in turn would make alcohol less affordable and thus harder to purchase. This could be an especially effective strategy in developing countries. Of course, alcohol sales could simply move to the black market.
Of course, the alcohol industry is a powerful industry dominated by a handful of massive conglomerates. As such, they have the resources to fight attempts at change. Given the billions of dollars in profits being generated through alcohol sales and the widespread acceptance of drinking, it would take a lot of political clout to raise taxes or otherwise limit alcohol consumption.