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Shocking data on alcohol-related deaths

According to a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO), alcohol consumption and drug use are responsible for over three million deaths per year. Alcohol is responsible for 2.6 million of these deaths.

Death toll highest for young adult men

Alcohol consumption is the cause of nearly 5% of all deaths worldwide. The WHO reported that the highest numbers were in the WHO European and African regions.

Notably, the vast majority of these deaths occurred among men. The highest prevalence was in the 20 to 39 age group.

Death rates were also highest in low-income countries. Disadvantaged and especially vulnerable populations have higher rates of alcohol-related death and hospitalisation.

“Substance use severely harms individual health, increasing the risk of chronic diseases, mental health conditions, and tragically resulting in millions of preventable deaths every year.”

WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Worldwide, an estimated 400 million people live with alcohol and drug use disorders.

Alcohol is the leading risk factor for premature mortality and disability among those aged 20 to 39 years, accounting for 13% of all deaths in this age group, according to the WHO.

Of all deaths attributable to alcohol in 2019, an estimated 724 000 deaths were due to injuries, such as those from traffic accidents, self-harm, and interpersonal violence.

South Africa is the land of plenty when it comes to alcohol

According to an SA government article, alcohol is the most widely used psychoactive substance in South Africa.

 “Alcohol is one of the most abused substances that causes the most harm to the most people in our country.”

Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu

Alcohol abuse is one of the main contributors to crime, especially gender-based violence and femicide in South Africa.

Impacts reach beyond the grave

Alcohol or alcoholic beverages contain ethanol, a psychoactive and toxic substance that can cause dependence.

Alcohol consumption, even at low levels, can bring health risks. However, most alcohol-related harms come from heavy episodic or continuous alcohol consumption.

While alcohol abuse harms the health of the person consuming alcohol by affecting their vital organs and increasing susceptibility to life-threatening diseases, it also affects others.

A significant part of the alcohol-attributable disease burden arises from injuries such as road traffic accidents. The WHO’s data shows that, of a total of 298 000 deaths from alcohol-related road accidents in 2019, 156 000 deaths were caused by someone else’s drinking.

Other injuries, intentional or unintentional, include falls, drowning, burns, sexual assault, intimate partner violence, and suicide.

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