Astonishingly, alcohol is responsible for 3.3 million deaths every year. Depression, cirrhosis, type 2 diabetes, drunk driving and other side effects account for one out of every twenty deaths, or approximately one death every ten seconds worldwide. According to the United Nations health agency, 5.9 percent of every death in 2012 can be attributed to alcohol in one way or another. For a little bit of perspective, HIV/AIDS claimed only 2.8%, tuberculosis 1.7%, and deaths as a result of violence were less than 1%.
Alcohol consumption is increasing, and logic dictates that so too will alcohol related deaths. Countries like India and China have previously had some of the lowest levels of alcohol consumption but now have some of the fastest rising rates in the world. Thanks to a growing middle class, by 2025 the World Health Organization estimates that Chinese yearly alcohol drinking will increase by 1.5 liters, almost half a gallon, per person.
Some of the wealthiest nations in Europe and the Americas have the highest per capita drinking statistics. Take Russia as an example. According to a 2010 study, Russian males who drink consume 32 liters, nearly 8.5 gallons of alcohol a year. Other Western European countries such as Canada, the U.S., and Australia also have some of the highest rates of drinking. To give an idea of how much alcohol is consumed, if everyone over the age of 15 was to drink the average amount would be 1.6 gallons of alcohol each. If we average that amount only for drinkers, it rockets to 4.5 gallons per person.
Drink to Your Health?
Connected to to over 200 negative mental and physical health effects, alcohol abuse depresses the immune system and allows uncommon or preventable diseases such as pneumonia, measles and others to infect an individual.
Cardiovascular disease and diabetes are of great concern because of the toll chronic alcohol abuse can have on the heart and veins. These chronic ailments have life-altering effects and can persist even after a long period of sobriety. Fortunately, the likelihood that these will affect an individual as the result of drinking can be reduced so long as alcohol consumption is limited to 1-2 standard drinks a day.
Drunk driving is directly responsible for a substantial number of alcohol-related deaths, about 17%. According to the World Health Organization, nearly one-in-six drinkers drink to excess by way of binge drinking. Blackouts and reduced cognitive ability and decision making skills contribute to the drunk driving epidemic, claiming thousands of lives a year.
Some hope exists. Although this figure varies by country, nearly half of the world’s population admits to never having ever consumed alcohol. 62 percent of those who have say they haven’t indulged in over a year. If there is a concerted cultural effort to emphasize the importance of responsibility in moderation and a vast support network for those who have trouble self-limiting, Overindulgence in America can decline and lives can be saved every year.