Alcohol responsible for 290,000 deaths in Europe

More than 290,000 people die as a result of alcohol-related causes in Europe each year, a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) has found.

The Status report on alcohol consumption, harm and policy responses in 30 European countries 2019 compiled data gathered from 2010 to 2016 and analysed harmful drinking rates across the Bloc and alcohol policy in European countries.

The report found that while there had been an overall decrease in alcohol-related deaths, alcohol is still responsible for 5.5% of all deaths in European Union countries, plus Norway and Switzerland (EU+).

The report showed that one in every four deaths among young adults was caused by alcohol – especially due to injury.

Dr Carina Ferreira-Borges, programme manager for alcohol and illicit drugs, WHO regional office for Europe, said: “When alcohol is one of the biggest killers of our young people, we cannot afford to be complacent.

“This is a product that is repeatedly marketed and made available to youth despite evidence that alcohol consumption has a detrimental effect on brain development and physical health. This is the next generation of leaders and we must protect them.”

The report urged countries to further improve alcohol policies, and called for greater implementation of marketing and pricing policies.

Heavy episodic drinking problem

The WHO also found that on average, adults aged 15 years and over in EU+ countries consume 20 units of alcohol per week, the equivalent of a 500ml bottle of spirit.

After life-time abstainers and former drinkers were removed from this sample, the figure rose to more than 30 units a week, equal to 750ml of spirit. The WHO said this level of consumption leads to serious health consequences.

Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO regional director for Europe, said: “Alcohol consumption has decreased in many European countries, but progress is grinding to a halt.

“Policy-makers need to implement the strategies we know are effective, such as increasing prices, limiting availability and banning advertising. With as many as 800 people dying every day in parts of the region due to alcohol-attributable harm, we must do more to continue the fight.”

The WHO said that heavy episodic drinking is a problem for the region, with 30.4% of people consuming more than 60g of pure alcohol on a single occasion in the last 30 days – equivalent to more than five drinks on one occasion.

This pattern of drinking is particularly prevalent among men (47.4%)compared to women (14.4%), and is most common in Baltic countries such as the Czech Republic and Luxembourg.

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