The ongoing debates into moderate drinking versus health risks have once again hit the headlines as a new study claims there is no safe level of alcohol use. The research shows that almost 3 million deaths worldwide were attributed to alcohol use in 2016, including 12% of deaths for males aged 15–49 years. The research published in The Lancet uses data from the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study (GBD) 2016.

The review investigated 592 studies including 28 million people worldwide. It looked at figures for 195 countries over a 26-year period for consumption levels, deaths and more than 20 alcohol-related conditions including pancreatitis, cancers, cirrhosis and cardiovascular diseases. The researchers concluded that any possible protective effects of moderate drinking are outweighed by its adverse effects on other aspects of health, particularly cancers.

Drinking in Ireland

Worldwide, more than 2 billion people claimed to be current drinkers in 2016. More than 60% were male. Seven of the 10 countries with the highest death rates were in Eastern Europe, the Baltic or Central Asia (Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, Mongolia, Latvia and Kazakhstan). Eight of the 10 lowest death rates were in the Middle East.

The study showed that Irish women drink an average of just over three drinks a day, and rank seventh in the world of highest drinkers, behind Ukraine, Andorra, Luxembourg, Belarus, Sweden and Denmark. British women ranked eighth. In contrast, Irish men have around four and a half drinks a day but do not make it into the top ten male consumers globally. This is because the drinking levels were far higher generally among men, with Romanian men drinking more than eight drinks a day. Both Portugal and Luxembourg men drank over seven drinks daily.

According to the study’s senior author, Dr Emmanuela Gakidou: “The health risks associated with alcohol are massive. Our findings are consistent with other recent research, which found clear and convincing correlations between drinking and premature death, cancer and cardiovascular problems.”

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