Alcohol-Related Deaths Rise

alcoholEach year, alcohol consumption directly leads to approximately 80, 000 deaths in 16 North American and Latin American countries.[1] Further, a population study of more than 230,000 deaths revealed that the countries with the highest alcohol-related mortality rates were El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.1 Eighty-six percent of the overall deaths occurred in men, especially those between the ages of 50 and 69.1

According to Vilma Pinheiro Gawryszewski of the Health Analysis and Information Unit at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in Washington D.C., “The mortality rates found in this study reveal the tip of the iceberg of a broader problem. Our study simply shows how many deaths are wholly attributable to alcohol consumption. The number for which [it] is a significant contribution factor is likely to be much higher.”1

Previous research has shown that alcohol consumption is linked to numerous other health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, tuberculosis, and psychiatric disorders.1

According to investigators, individuals over age 15 who reside in the Americas average a consumption of 8.7 liters of pure alcohol each year, compared to the global average of 6.1 liters.1 This defines a problem of greater magnitude than in other countries.1

Researchers examined the PAHO mortality database records from 2007 to 2009 for 238,367 individuals who lived in 16 countries in North, Central, and South America.1 They found 79,456 mortality cases in which “death would not have occurred in the absence of alcohol consumption.”1 In fact, 63 percent were attributed to liver disease and 32 percent were attributed to neuropsychiatric disorders.1

Although alcohol-related deaths overall occurred significantly more in men compared to women, the ratio between the two sexes varied extensively among the countries studied.1 In fact, men in Nicaragua and Cuba were  18.9 and 14.8 times, respectively, more likely to die from alcohol consumption than women; however, in the United States and Canada, they were only 3.2 times more likely.1

Regarding age, those who were between the ages of 40 and 59 years represented 55 percent of the total deaths.1 However, in the United States, Canada, Argentina, Costa Rica, Cuba, and Paraguay, the highest mortality rates were for those between 50 and 69 years.1 In El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, the three countries with the highest overall alcohol-related deaths, the risk rate increased at the mere age of 30.1

According to Gawryszewski, “As these high rates have shown a major public health problem, countries should increase their efforts to improve the quality of information and implement more effective policies to reduce alcohol availability and consumption at national levels.”1

[1] Alcohol-Related Deaths Continue to Climb. Medscape. Jan 23, 2014.

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