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Action needed to reduce health impact of harmful alcohol use: report

GENEVA, Feb 11 (KUNA) - - Wider implementation of policies is needed to save lives and reduce the health impact of harmful alcohol drinking, says a new report released today by the World Health Organization (WHO). Harmful use of alcohol results in the death of 2.5 million people annually, causes illness and injury to many more and increasingly affects younger generations and drinkers in developing countries. Harmful use of alcohol is defined as excessive use to the point that it causes damage to health and often includes adverse social consequences. The Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health analyzes available evidence on alcohol consumption, consequences and policy interventions at global, regional and national levels. "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 Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health.
Harmful use of alcohol has many implications on public health, such as being: Nearly 4 percent of all deaths are related to alcohol. Most alcohol-related deaths are caused by accidents resulting from injuries, cancer, cardiovascular diseases and liver cirrhosis.
Globally, 6.2 percent of all male deaths are related to alcohol, compared to 1.1 percent of female deaths. One-in-five men in the Russian Federation and neighboring countries die due to alcohol-related causes. Globally, 320 000 young people aged 15-29 years die annually, from alcohol-related causes, resulting in 9 percent of all deaths in that age group. Too few countries use effective policy options to prevent death, disease and injury from alcohol use. From 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 programs. Analysis from 2001-2005 showed countries in the WHO Americas, European, Eastern Mediterranean and Western Pacific regions had relatively stable consumption levels during that time; but significant increases were seen in Africa and South-East Asia during the five-year period.
Despite widespread consumption, most people do not drink. Almost half of all men and two-thirds of women did not consume alcohol in 2005, according to the figures of the latest report. Abstention rates are low in high-income, high consumption countries and higher in North African and South Asian countries. But those who do drink in countries with high abstention rates consume alcohol at high levels. (end) ta.ibi KUNA 111722 Feb 11NNNN