According to the World Health Report, alcohol causes 4% of the morbidity and 3.2% (1.8 million) of all the deaths in the world. Among the 26 risk factors evaluated by the World Health Organization (WHO), alcohol was the fifth most important risk factor in terms of premature deaths and disabilities in the world.
The widespread use of alcoholic beverages is associated with a series of social and health consequences, including reduced labor productivity, various forms of cancer, chronic liver disease, heart disease, injuries to the central and peripheral nervous systems and alcohol dependence. The problems caused by alcohol can go beyond the drinker and produce effects on those around him in aspects such as family violence, marital conflicts, economic problems, child abuse, admissions in emergency rooms, violent behavior, injuries and fatalities in motorists and pedestrians when driving while intoxicated.
Alcohol is the most important risk factor for health in developed countries, such as the US and Canada. The American continent is the only Region in the world where alcohol has the first place as a risk factor for health. Alcohol consumption in America is approximately 40% higher than the world average.
Despite the wide subregional variations, the average value of per capita alcohol consumption, weighted by population, in the American continent is 8.7 liters, which is well above the global average of 6.2 liters of per capita consumption.
The industrialized and developed countries of the Region, such as the US and Canada, have a high per capita consumption (9.3 liters of pure alcohol per capita for people 15 years of age or older). It is estimated that there are 11.2% of heavy drinkers and an average consumption of 14.3 liters per adult drinker.
According to a recent study analyzing the habits of alcohol consumption, one in eight Americans has been diagnosed as an alcoholic, representing an increase of 49% in a period of 11 years.
Detrimental levels of alcohol consumption have increased in all demographic profiles in the United States, according to a survey conducted by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The study concludes that the most marked increase in high-risk alcohol consumption has occurred among women, the elderly, ethnic or racial minorities and the most disadvantaged people at a socioeconomic level.
The proportion of adults who reported alcohol consumption, dependence or abuse of alcohol consumption increased significantly in the results of surveys conducted in the last 5 years. The authors interviewed the population under study with similar questions, offering a representative look at the national level on how the habits of alcohol consumption have evolved in the 21st century.
About 12.6 percent of adults reported having had a risky behavior with alcohol in the last 5 years, compared to 9.7 percent of the study conducted between 2001 and 2002. The behavior was considered high risk if people overdo it with the alcohol consumption allowed by the government, set at four drinks in a day for women and five drinks for men, at least once a week.
This increase of 3 percentage points may not seem like a big jump, but with an adult population of about 250 million in the United States, it represents approximately 7 million more people who drink alcohol, at least once a week.
The report shows a 59.7% increase in alcohol consumption among women which is alarming, it is inferred that this trend could predict a future increase in breast cancer, liver cirrhosis, alcoholic fetus and exposure to violence.
The consequences for health care, welfare and mortality are severe, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), excessive alcohol consumption causes an average of 88,000 deaths in the United States each year, which include deaths due to driving while intoxicated, violence related to alcohol, liver diseases, among others.