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Alcohol consumption kills 85,000 annually in the Americas, says new study

Posted: Monday, April 12, 2021. 3:04 pm CST.

By Rubén Morales Iglesias: An average of 85,000 people died annually in the Americas from 2012 to 2015 solely due to alcohol consumption, says a study done by the Pan American Health Organization/WHO (PAHO/WHO) and published today in the Addiction journal. The report said that additionally, alcohol is the contributing factor in 300,000 other deaths.

“This study demonstrates that harmful use of alcohol in the Americas is a major public health priority,” said Dr. Anselm Hennis, director of PAHO’s Department of Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health. “It is associated with preventable deaths and many years of life lived with a disability. We need effective, feasible and sustainable interventions, policies and programs to reduce the consumption of alcohol.”

The study, which was the largest of its kind, analyzed data from 30 countries. It revealed that 64.9% of the deaths were in people younger than 60 and that the causes of death were mainly due to liver disease and neuropsychiatric disorders.

“The study demonstrates that the greatest proportion of deaths fully attributable to alcohol consumption are occurring prematurely among people between the ages of 50 and 59, and mostly among men. Harmful use of alcohol is killing people in the prime of their lives,” Dr. Maristela Monteiro, PAHO’s senior advisor on alcohol said. “This is a loss not only for their families but also for the economy and the larger society.”

The study found that 83.1% of the people whose deaths were solely attributable to alcohol were men as compared to 16.9% who were women.

“The greatest gender disparities were in El Salvador and Belize, while this gap was smallest in the U.S. and Canada,” said PAHO.

At the same time, the study said the highest rates of alcohol-attributable mortality were in Nicaragua (23.2 per 100,000 people) and Guatemala (19 per 100,000), even though these countries have relatively lower per capita alcohol consumption than others.

The study showed that high-income countries had a higher per capita alcohol consumption while low- and middle-income countries had a higher rate of alcohol-attributable mortality concluding the higher mortality rates are due to lesser access to medical services, health information, and good nutrition, as well as limited transportation.

PAHO said that for the situation to improve, the countries in the Americas should limit the hours of alcohol sales, ban alcohol advertising and promotion, and increase alcohol taxation.

PAHO concluded that the COVID-19 pandemic has made the situation worse because the availability of alcohol has increased particularly due to online sales and home deliveries.


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