Health In Focus
  • The only way to minimize health loss is to bring the level of alcohol consumption to zero
  • Alcohol use is the seventh leading risk factor for global disease burden and number one for younger people
  • The risk of all-cause mortality rises with increasing levels of consumption
  • Alcohol control policies might need to be revised worldwide, refocusing on efforts to lower overall population-level consumption

There is "no safe level of alcohol consumption," says a large new analysis that has been reported in the journal The Lancet.

The study also says that alcohol use was responsible for over two percent of all deaths in women and fewer than seven percent of deaths in men in the year 2016.

Alcohol-Leading cause of Death

Alcohol use is a leading risk factor for death and disability, but the association of alcohol with health is a complex one given the fact that studies have also reported that consuming moderate levels of alcohol on some conditions could have possible protective effects.
No Amount of Alcohol is ‘Safe’ for Health

In the current study, the researchers have tried to eliminate all the biases of earlier studies. They estimated alcohol consumption among current drinkers using data from 694 individual and population-level studies - they achieved accuracy in their estimate by eliminating alcohol consumption by tourists and those that went unrecorded.

The team did a systematic review of 592 studies that included 28 million people worldwide to study relative risks for 23 health outcomes associated with alcohol use. The risk curves and a new analytical method were used to quantify the level of alcohol consumption that minimizes an individual's total attributable risk.

Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study 2016 - Estimates of alcohol use and alcohol-attributable deaths and disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs).

Why Alcohol Consumption is Not Safe?

The study was conducted across 195 locations from 1990 to 2016, for both men and women and 5-year age groups between the ages of 15 years and 95 years and older.
The findings were
  • Alcohol use accounted for 2.8 million deaths globally in 2016 which corresponded to about 2 % of female deaths and about 7 % of male deaths in 2016
  • Alcohol use was the seventh leading risk factor for premature death and disability globally in 2016
  • Drinking alcohol leading global risk factor for disease burden in 2016 among the population aged between 15-49 years - disability attributable to alcohol in this group was about 2 % in females and about 9 % in males, and premature deaths were about 4 % in females and 12 % in males
  • The three leading causes of attributable deaths in this age group were tuberculosis road injuries, and self-harm
  • For people aged 50 years and older, cancers due to alcohol accounted for 27 % of deaths in females and 19 % deaths in males in 2016
  • The amount of alcohol consumption that reduced harm across health outcomes was zero standard drinks per week
However, the risk of acquiring ischemic heart disease went down slightly in women with a small amount of alcohol use compared to not drinking at all.

The authors anyhow go on to say that the protective effects of alcohol use for ischemic heart disease and diabetes among women were offset when overall health risks were considered - primarily because of the strong association between alcohol consumption and the risk of cancer, injuries, and communicable disease.

All in all, they suggest revising policies that focus on reducing population-level alcohol consumption will be most effective so that we can minimize the health loss from alcohol use.

Reference :
  1. Understanding Alcohol's Impact on Health  - (

Source: Medindia

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