A major new global study published in The Lancet has found that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption. The research looked at levels of alcohol use and its health effects across 195 countries between 1990 and 2016.
It found that even an occasional drink can prove harmful and its authors say that governments should recommend people abstain entirely from alcohol consumption. Consuming alcohol caused 2.8 million deaths in 2016 and it was the leading risk factor for premature mortality and disability among people aged 15 to 49.
Even though moderate drinking has been associated with limited health benefits for years, with a daily glass of red wine seen as being good for the heart, the new research claims that the harmful impact far outweighs any benefits. The following infographic shows the top-10 countries in terms of overall deaths attributable to alcohol and specifically, it highlights the massive gender gap in mortality. In the United States, for example, 71,000 male deaths and 19,000 female deaths were attributable to alcohol in 2016.
Researchers used 694 studies to estimate worldwide drinking patterns and used 592 studies plus 28 million people to learn about alcohol’s health risks between 1990 and 2016 in 195 countries.
They found drinking alcohol was associated with nearly 1 in 10 deaths of people ages 15 to 49 years old. Causes included tuberculosis, road injuries and self-harm. For people over 50, cancers were cited as a leading cause of alcohol-related death (about 27 percent of deaths in women and 19 percent of deaths in men).
Researchers found that the “burden” of alcohol consumption was worse than previously reported. They called for more regulations around alcohol use and said there is no amount of alcohol that is healthy.
More research must still be done to explain how drinking patterns affect health. For example, a glass of wine every evening versus binge drinking. Griswold said there are also unknowns around health once people stop drinking.