World Health Organization report released last week

I have to say that I was fascinated by some of the findings of the WHO Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health released last week. The report looks at alcohol consumption and the consequences of consumption around the world. A few questions and answers to get your mind boggling:

Do you think global alcohol consumption is increasing, decreasing or staying the same?

Answer: Since the 1990s, worldwide recorded per capita consumption has remained stable at around 4.3-4.7 litres of pure alcohol.

What is the most consumed alcoholic beverage in Spain?

Answer: Beer.

What is the most consumed alcoholic beverage in Sweden?

Answer: Wine.

What is the legal drinking age in Angola?

Answer: 15.

What is the legal drinking age in Nepal?

Answer: 25

How many people have never consumed alcohol?

Answer: Globally, 45% of the world’s population has never consumed alcohol. (In the past year, almost half of all men and two thirds of all women worldwide have abstained from drinking alcohol.)

Name the nine countries that report a complete ban on alcohol.

Answer: Afghanistan, Brunei Darussalam, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Sudan.

Interesting facts aside, the report paints an overall picture of alcohol as a serious public health concern.

  • Alcohol consumption is the world’s third largest risk factor for disease and disability; in middle-income countries, it is the greatest risk.
  • Alcohol is a causal factor in 60 types of diseases and injuries and a component cause in 200 others.
  • Almost 4% of all deaths worldwide are attributed to alcohol, greater than deaths caused by HIV/AIDS, violence or tuberculosis.

The highest consumption levels of alcohol can be found in the developed world, mostly the Northern Hemisphere, but also in Argentina, Australia and New Zealand. Medium consumption levels can be found in southern Africa, with Namibia and South Africa having the highest levels, and in North and South America. Low consumption levels can be found in the countries of North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, the Eastern Mediterranean region, and southern Asia and the Indian Ocean.


The report also describes some interesting gender differences. Worldwide, about 11.5% of drinkers have weekly heavy episodic drinking occasions, with men outnumbering women by four to one. Men consistently engage in hazardous drinking at much higher levels than women in all regions. The figure below shows global patterns of heavy drinking among women.


The report can be downloaded from the WHO web site here. You can view the Canada profile as a PDF here.