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WHO launches Global status report on alcohol and health

Wider implementation of policies is needed to save lives and reduce the health impact of harmful alcohol drinking, says a new report launched by WHO

Geneva, 11 February 2011. The WHO launched its Global status report on alcohol and health (2011) during the first meeting of the WHO global counterparts for implementation of the global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol.

The newly published report analyses available evidence on alcohol consumption, consequences and policy interventions and provides data in over 100 individual country profiles.

Health implications

Harmful alcohol use is one of 4 main common risk factors for the 4 main groups of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) - cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic lung disease and diabetes.

Nearly 4% of all deaths are related to alcohol. However, this differs greatly between countries, for instance in the Russian Federation 1 in 5 men die due to alcohol-related causes.

The report highlights that too few countries use effective policy options to prevent death, disease and injury from alcohol use. Since 1999, when WHO first began to report on alcohol policies, at least 34 countries have adopted some type of formal policies to reduce harmful use of alcohol. Restrictions on alcohol marketing and on drink–driving have increased, but there are no clear trends on most preventive measures. Many countries have weak alcohol policies and prevention programmes.

“Many countries recognize the serious public health problems caused by the harmful use of alcohol and have taken steps to prevent the health and social burdens and treat those in need of care. But clearly much more needs to be done to reduce the loss of life and suffering associated with harmful alcohol use,” says Dr Ala Alwan, WHO Assistant Director-General for Non-Communicable Diseases and Mental Health.

Effective strategies

The Global Strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol, endorsed by WHO's Member States in May 2010, promotes a range of proven effective measures for reducing alcohol-related harm. These include taxation on alcohol to reduce harmful drinking; reducing availability through allowing fewer outlets to sell alcohol; raising age limits for those buying; and using effective drink-driving measures.

The Global Strategy also promotes the screening and brief interventions in healthcare settings to change hazardous patterns of drinking, and treatment of alcohol use disorders; regulating or banning marketing of alcoholic beverages; and conducting information and educational campaigns in support of effective policy measures.

Heaviest drinking countries

Estimated total alcohol consumption per person in liters (years 2003-2005):

Republic of Moldova 18.22
Czech Republic 16.45
Hungary 16.27
Russia 15.76
Ukraine 15.6
Estonia 15.57
Andorra 15.48
Romania 15.3
Slovenia 15.19
Belarus 15.13
UK 13.37

This report represents a continuing effort by the World Health Organization (WHO) to support Member States in collecting information in order to assist them in their efforts to reduce the harmful use of alcohol, and its health and social consequences.

Related links:

WHO Global Status report on alcohol and health 2011
WHO press release: Action needed to reduce health impact of harmful alcohol use
WHO Global Strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol