This page is a hub of scientific evidence providing a quick overview of alcohol-related harm around the world.

Our work starts from evidence-based facts. We cooperate effectively with independent scientists and academia to encourage research in order to broaden the evidence-base both for understanding the effectiveness of policy measures as well as the impact of our own community interventions.

IOGT International strives to disseminate the latest scientific evidence and information in order to foster crucial insight in and understanding of the policy-making processes and supply decision-makers and opinion leaders with crucial evidence.

Alcohol Facts

  • Alcohol is a toxic substance in terms of its direct and indirect effects on a wide range of body organs and is a causal factor in more than 200 disease and injury conditions.
  • Taking all diseases and injuries at global level into account, the negative health impact of alcohol consumption is 31.6 times higher than the benefit.
  • Alcohol consumption causes death and disability relatively early in life. In the age group 20 to 39 years approximately 25% of total deaths are alcohol-attributable.
  • Globally, alcohol consumption is the fifth leading risk factor for premature death and disability; among people between the ages of 15 and 49, it is the first.

17 Global Key Facts

Alcohol use results in a significant health, social, economic and Human Rights burden on society at large.

  1. Alcohol kills 3.3 million people worldwide every year. It means: Every 10 seconds a human being dies because of alcohol. This represent 5.9 % of all deaths.
  2. Alcohol consumption is a causal factor in more than 200 disease and injury conditions.
  3. Overall 5.1 % of the global burden of disease and injury is attributable to alcohol, as measured in disability- adjusted life years (DALYs).
  4. Alcohol harm is a tremendous burden on the young people of the world: Alcohol consumption causes death and disability early in life – relative to other health hazards. In the age group 20 to 39 years of age about 25% of the total deaths are alcohol-attributable.
  5. In 2010, the 6 largest global alcohol producers spent more than US $2.1 billion on advertising.
    (Jernigan, D. The extent of global alcohol marketing and its impact on youth, 2010)
  6. Alcoholic beverages are carcinogenic to humans.” – established the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 1988.
  7. In 2010 alcohol-attributable cancer was responsible for 4.2% of all cancer deaths and caused approximately 8.5 million potential years of life lost worldwide.
  8. There is a causal relationship between alcohol use and a range of mental and behavioural disorders, other Non-communicable conditions, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, as well as injuries.
  9. There is a causal relationships between alcohol use and incidence of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis as well as the course of HIV/AIDS.
  10. Beyond health consequences, the alcohol harm causes significant social and economic losses to people, their communities and society at large. Alcohol is a major obstacle to sustainable development and economic prosperity.
  11. Up to 80% of gender-based violence can be alcohol-related.
  12. Harm caused to others than the alcohol user him/ herself is an important aspect of the total burden of alcohol harm. Alcohol’s harm to others affects family members, friends, co-workers and strangers. Some examples are emergency room staff, police, taxi drivers, children of alcoholics, children born with foetal alcohol syndrome, road traffic fatalities, or alcohol-related violence – especially gender-based violence.
  13. A significant proportion of the disease burden attributable to alcohol consumption arises from unintentional and intentional injuries, including those due to road traffic crashes, violence, and suicides, and fatal alcohol-related injuries tend to occur in relatively younger age groups.
  14. Alcohol is the leading risk factor for death and disability among people aged 15 to 49 years worldwide. This is the age range in which people are typically at their most productive economically. Alcohol misuse likely results in billions of dollars of lost wages each year.
  15. The economic burden of alcohol worldwide is substantial, accounting for up to 5.44% of Growth Domestic Product in some countries.
  16. Alcohol is one of four major risk factors of the global epidemic of chronic diseases (NCDs).
  17. Alcohol is a significant and increasing risk factor for the global burden of mortality.

Almost two-thirds of the global adult population chooses not to use alcohol in any given year.

Screenshot 2015-08-30 13.27.55

Blue: Lifetime abstainers Brown: Former alcohol users Green: Current users

The Americas

The highest consumption levels continue to be found in the developed world, in particular in the WHO European Region (EUR) and the WHO Region of the Americas (AMR).

In the region of the Americas, alcohol is the leading risk factor for burden of disease among 26 different risk factors.

Alcohol consumption in the Americas is higher on average than the rest of the world. In particular, rates of heavy episodic alcohol use have risen in the past five years, from 4.6% to 13.0% among women and 17.9% to 29.4% among men.

Death and disability

Alcohol use led to ca. one death every 100 seconds, on average, in the Americas in 2012.

Alcohol use contributed to more than 300,000 deaths in the Region—with more than 80,000 of those involving deaths that would not have occurred had alcohol not been consumed.

Alcohol use is related to more than 274 million years of healthy life lost (DALYs) in the Americas in 2012.

In the Americas in 2012, the top three causes of death and disability caused by alcohol overall were AUDs, liver cirrhosis, and interpersonal violence.

Harm to others

In Argentina, 68% of all cases of domestic violence are alcohol-related.

In Brazil, 60% of all cases of intimate partner violence are related to alcohol.

In rural Mexico, a $20 dollar long-lasting increase in the wife’s income is associated with a 15% decrease of the husband’s alcohol use and a 21% decrease of aggressive behaviour.

In the United States, more than 10% of children live with a parent with alcohol problems, according to a 2012 study.

Obstacle to development

About 5.7% of the Region’s population reported suffering from an alcohol use disorder. The real number is likely higher.

Alcohol is the leading risk factor for death and disability among people aged 15 to 49 years in the Americas. This is the age range in which people are typically at their most productive economically. Alcohol misuse likely results in billions of dollars of lost wages every year.

Indigenous peoples account for some 13% of the Region’s population. While major gaps exist in understanding to what extent and in what ways alcohol affects these diverse and vulnerable groups, some case studies and anecdotal reports indicate that indigenous peoples are burdened substantially by alcohol-related harms but have limited access to care and other interventions.

Most students surveyed in the Americas had had their first alcoholic beverage before the age of 14. Around 14,000 deaths of children and youth under 19 were attributed to alcohol in 2010.

The source for all facts, if not otherwise indicated is the 2015 Regional Status Report on Alcohol and Health in the Americas, by PAHO and WHO Americas.

South-East Asia

The lowest alcohol consumption levels in the world are found in the WHO South-East Asia Region (SEAR).

The WHO South-East Asia Region has the highest amount of adults living free from alcohol.

Prevalence of past 12-month abstention (%; 15+ years), 2010

Prevalence of past 12-month abstention (%; 15+ years), 2010

Although alcohol per capita consumption is not expected to increase in the WHO South-East Asia Region in the next ten years, the high growth rate of the adolescent and adult population will increase the number of potential consumers. Consequently, the total amount of alcohol consumed in the region might also substantially increase.

In some countries, particularly within the WHO South-East Asia Region, unrecorded alcohol consumption makes up more than 50% of total alcohol consumption. In lower-middle and low-income countries in the WHO South-East Asia Region, particularly India, home-made alcohol constitute a high proportion of total alcohol consumed.

India

Alcohol use in India has registered a steady growth rate of 10 to 15% each year during the past decade with greater expansion seen in southern parts of India. The per capita consumption of alcohol has gone up by 106.7% in India over a 15-year period from 1970-1996. India is now one of the key markets for the global alcohol industry. Alcohol harm is increasing and placing a growing burden on Indian society.

“Alcohol marketing and regulatory policy environment in India” – report by Public Health Foundation of India and HRIDAY

Thailand

Alcohol imposes a substantial economic burden on Thailand, with a total economic cost of $47 billion (USD) or about 1.99% of the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

In Thailand, alcohol is estimated to be the third most important health risk factor. 45% of deaths from traffic accidents are due to alcohol consumption.

Other countries

  • In Cambodia, 83% of beer seller (so called “beer girls”) are subjected to unwanted sexual contact.
  • 65% of women experiencing intimate partner violence in India and Vietnam reported that the perpetrator had used alcohol.
  • In Myanmar a hospital study based on Madalay Mental Hospital found that 27.8% of patients had alcohol related disorders.
  • In Nepal a 2002 demographic and health survey showed that 67% of the males (15 to 60 years) were alcohol users and the largest percentage (73.3%) was the in age of 25 to 29 years.

Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka a survey of 150 randomly selected General Practitioners showed that 80% were frequently confronted with patients who had alcohol use disorders.

The deaths from liver disease have increased by more than 10% since the 1970s.

If not otherwise specified, the source for all facts is the “Reducing harm from alcohol use in the community
Symposium held in Bali, Indonesia, in 2007, organised by The Mental Health and Substance Abuse Unit (MHS) of the World Health Organization, Regional Office for South-East Asia.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Intermediate levels of consumption are found in the WHO African Region (AFR), while the majority of the adult population in Africa lives free from alcohol. More than 70% of Sub-Saharan African are not using alcohol in any given year.

Screenshot 2015-08-30 13.27.55

Blue: Lifestime abstainers Brown: Former alcohol users Green: Current users

Although alcohol per capita consumption is not expected to increase in the WHO African Region in the next ten years, the high growth rate of the adolescent and adult population will increase the number of potential consumers. Consequently, the total amount of alcohol consumed in the WHO African Region might also substantially increase.

Alcohol is the fifth largest health risk factor globally and risk factor number one in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Alcohol costs

In the Republic of South Africa the estimates made of the combined tangible and intangible costs of alcohol harm to the economy reached nearly 300 billion rand or 10 to 12% of the 2009 GDP.

Intimate partner violence

65% of women experiencing intimate partner violence in Uganda, Zimbabwe and South Africa reported that the perpetrator had used alcohol.

Focus group discussion in rural Rwanda show that women who are victims of domestic violence rank alcohol as number one factor.

The source for all facts, if not otherwise indicated, is the 2014 WHO Global Status Report on Alcohol.

The Global North

The highest consumption levels continue to be found in the developed world, in particular in the WHO European Region (EUR) and the WHO Region of the Americas (AMR).

Harm To Others

Alcohol’s harm to others is massive in the United Kingdom: More than half of Scots and three-quarters of people from North West England are harmed by another person’s alcohol use.

  • 51.4% of people in Scotland and 78.7% of people in North West England had experienced harm from another person’s alcohol use. Most of these people reported multiple types of harm.
  • There is a link between age and rates of harm, with younger age groups (16 to 24 and 25 to 34 year-olds) reporting greater rates of harm than older age groups.
  • One in five adults have been harassed or insulted on the street by someone who has been consuming alcohol.

Almost ¾ of adults in Australia, i.e. 10 million people, are adversely affected by someone else’s alcohol use.

In Australia in 2011, there were 29,684 police-reported incidents of alcohol-related domestic violence, and that’s only in the four states and territories where data is available.

Death and disability

Nearly 88,000 people (ca. 62,000 men and 26,000 women) die from alcohol-related causes annually, making it the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States.

16.6 million adults ages 18 and older had an Alcohol Use Disorder in 2013. Only 1.3 million adults received treatment for an AUD at a specialized facility in 2013 (7.8 percent of adults who needed treatment).

Child Rights abuses

More than 10% of U.S. children live with a parent with alcohol problems, according to a 2012 study.

In the USA, more than half of all confirmed abuse reports and 75% of child deaths involve the use of alcohol or other drugs by parents.

In the European Union, there are at least 9 million children and young people growing up with parents who have an alcohol use disorder.

In Australia, over a million children (22% of all Australian children) are estimated to be affected in some way by the alcohol use of others (2008). 142,582 children were substantially affected (2008), and more than 10,000 Australian children are in the child protection system because of a carers alcohol use (2006-07).

In Japan, between up to 14% of parents abusing their children have alcohol use disorders.

Costs to society

In the United States, alcohol harm costs society $224 billion (USD), every year.

In 2002, 4,258 deaths in Canada were related to alcohol abuse, representing 1.9% of all deaths. Costs related to alcohol in Canada equaled approximately $14.6 billion (CAD) in 2002.

In the European Union, alcohol harm costs society €156 billion, every year.

Australian households spent on average $32.20 per week on alcohol, which equals nearly 2% of their total weekly household expenditure. This is higher than average expenditure on tobacco ($12.50), personal care ($24) and education ($30.60), and similar to the amount Australian households spent per week on fuel and power ($32.50).

In 2010 in Australia, the total costs of alcohol-related problems to society was estimated to be more $14 billion. Of this almost $3 billion (20.6%) were costs to the criminal justice system.
$1.7 billion (11.7%) were costs to the health care system.
$6.046 billion (42.1%) were costs to Australian productivity and $3.7 billion (25.5%) were costs associated with traffic accidents.
This estimate of total costs, however, does not incorporate the negative impacts on others ($6.8 billion as estimated by Laslett et al. 2010) associated with someone else’s alcohol use.

Europe

Europe is the region in the world with the highest alcohol consumption. Most of the multinational corporations that make up Big Alcohol have their headquarters in Europe.

Alcohol harm is widespread and a heavy burden in Europe:

  • Alcohol is the 3rd leading risk factor in Europe for ill health and Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer, diabetes or heart disease.
  • 12 million people in the EU are alcohol dependent.
  • Around 9 million children in the EU are living with one parent addicted to alcohol.
  • 1 of 4 road fatalities in EU are alcohol related. In 2010 nearly 31,000 Europeans were killed on the roads of which 25% of deaths were related to alcohol.
  • The cost attributable to alcohol harm amounts to €155,8 billion per year.
  • Alcohol is the leading risk factor for ill-health and premature death for the core of the working age population (25 to 59 years of age).
  • Alcohol is responsible for 1 in 7 male deaths and 1 in 13 female deaths in the age group of 15 to 64 years, resulting in approximately 120 000 premature deaths.