Alcohol-Related Deaths Hit 3.3 Million in 2012

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About 3.3 million people worldwide died from causes related to drinking alcohol in 2012, according to a new report by the World Health Organization.

Alcohol consumption can lead to addiction and increase people’s risk of developing more than 200 diseases, including liver cirrhosis and some cancers, according to the report released today (May 12).

"We found that worldwide about 16 percent of drinkers engage in heavy episodic drinking — often referred to as binge drinking — which is the most harmful to health," said Dr. Shekhar Saxena, director for mental health and substance abuse at WHO. [7 Ways Alcohol Affects Your Health]

The WHO called for more action from governments to reduce such harmful drinking by taking measures such as raising age limits and regulating the marketing of alcoholic beverages.

"More needs to be done to protect populations from the negative health consequences of alcohol consumption," said Dr. Oleg Chestnov, WHO assistant director-general for noncommunicable diseases and mental health.

About 40 percent of people worldwide drink alcohol, according to the report.

People with lower incomes are more affected by the consequences of harmful alcohol consumption, Saxena said. "They often lack quality health care and are less protected by functional family or community networks."

The researchers found that a higher percentage of men died from alcohol-related causes compared with women. More than 7 percent of men’s deaths and 4 percent of women’s deaths were attributed to alcohol.

However, the researchers said there is evidence that women may be more vulnerable to some alcohol-related health conditions compared with men, and the steady increase in alcohol use among women is concerning.

Globally, the inhabitants of Europe consume the most alcohol per person, and some European countries have particularly high consumption rates, the researchers found. Consumption levels have been stable over the last five years in the European region, as well as in Africa and the Americas, but have increased in South East Asia and the Western Pacific, according to the report.

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Bahar Gholipour
Staff Writer
Bahar Gholipour is a staff reporter for Live Science covering neuroscience, odd medical cases and all things health. She holds a Master of Science degree in neuroscience from the École Normale Supérieure (ENS) in Paris, and has done graduate-level work in science journalism at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. She has worked as a research assistant at the Laboratoire de Neurosciences Cognitives at ENS.