Forget that one glass of wine, no alcohol is good for you
Alcohol is associated with one in 10 deaths globally in people aged 15-49, according to a study, ‘Global Burden of Disease’, published in The Lancet. Overall, alcohol is linked to 2.8 million deaths each year worldwide, the study found.
The study, published on August 23, focused on alcohol use and health effects in people in 195 countries between 1990 and 2016. Globally, one in three people drink alcohol, which is equivalent to 2.4 billion people. Of them, 2.2 per cent of women and 6.8 per cent of men die of alcohol-related health problems each year, the study found.
In India in 2016, the prevalence of female drinkers was 4.1 per cent and deaths attributed to alcohol consumption among women was 0.71 per cent (42,000 deaths). In males, the prevalence was 20 per cent and deaths attributed to alcohol drinking was 4.7 per cent (2.9 lakh deaths).
According to lead author Dr Max Griswold of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, University of Washington, USA, in people aged 15-95 years, drinking one alcoholic drink a day increases the risk of developing one of 23 alcohol-related health problems by 0.5 per cent in a year, compared with not drinking at all.
The risk of developing alcohol-related health problems increased to 7 per cent in people who drank two drinks a day for one year and 37 per cent in people who drank five drinks a day for one year.
In the study, a standard alcoholic drink is defined as 10g alcohol: examples include a small glass of red wine (100ml) at 13 per cent alcohol by volume, a can or bottle of beer (375 ml) at 3.5 per cent alcohol by volume; or a shot of whiskey or other spirits (30 ml) at 40 per cent alcohol by volume.
Researchers said that there is no safe level of alcohol as beneficial effects against ischemic heart disease are outweighed by the adverse effects on other areas of health, particularly cancers.
Globally, one in three people (32.5 per cent) drink alcohol – equivalent to 2.4 billion people, including 25 per cent women (0.9 billion) and 39 per cent men (1.5 billion). On an average, a woman consumes 0.73 alcoholic drinks each day, while men have 1.7 drinks.
Drinking patterns vary globally. The highest number of alcohol drinkers is in Denmark (95.3 per cent women and 97.1 per cent men) while the lowest are in Pakistan for men (0.8 per cent) and Bangladesh for women (0.3 per cent). Men in Romania and women in Ukraine drink the most (8.2 and 4.2 drinks a day, respectively), whereas men in Pakistan and women in Iran drink the least (0.0007 and 0.0003 drinks a day, respectively).
Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, professor and surgeon at Tata Memorial Hospital, which is among the contributors to The Lancet report, said that the consumption of alcohol was steadily increasing in India.
Officially, Indians are still among the world’s lowest consumers of alcohol with more than 60 per cent adults completely abstaining from it, Dr Chaturvedi said, quoting national household surveys.
“However, studies have shown that India has a large number of heavy drinkers – more than 75 ml/day or almost every day of the week. The average age of initiation of alcohol use has also come down from 28 in the 1980s to 17 in 2007. It is sad that India does not have an overarching central policy to discourage alcohol use. There is no warning on alcohol packs though it is a confirmed cancer-causing substance,” he said.
According to Prof K Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India, there is a need for more health literacy campaigns as drunken driving is the major cause of road accidents. There are multiple causes of death related to alcohol drinking and is associated with tuberculosis, road injuries, self harm and cancers.
Alcohol use was ranked as the seventh leading risk factor for premature death and disability worldwide in 2016, the report added.