Americans over 15 drink more alcohol than most of the rest of the world, but still less alcohol than their Canadian cousins, finds the most recent data on alcohol consumption from the World Health Organization.
Americans, including North and most of South America, imbibe 7.5-9.9 liters of alcohol per person, per year. Canadians down more than 12.5 liters each, as do Russians and Australians, the study found.
Africans don't drink as much as Americans and residents of Islamic countries drink the least of all.
Worldwide, almost a quarter (24.8 percent) of all alcohol consumed is in the form of unrecorded alcohol, the report said. Unrecorded alcohol is alcohol made at home, alcohol meant for other purposes (like medical), or smuggled.
In countries where alcohol is banned, like in some Islamic states, or where the average person can't afford to buy alcohol, like in India, nearly 100 percent of consumption is of this type.
Around the world, just over half of recorded alcohol intake is in the form of spirits. Next comes beer, accounting for about 35 percent of consumption, and 55 percent of drinking in WHO's Americas region. Overall, wine comprises just 8 percent of global consumption, but, predictably, 25.7 percent in Europe and 11.7 percent in the Americas (skewed by Argentina and Chile, both wine-producing and exporting countries).
And the amount of drinking around the world is going up, especially in China and India, where incomes are rising and alcohol marketing is active, the report said.
The WHO report also took a look at how drinkers drink and what that means for their health risk. The five-point risk scale was built around drinking "attributes," including: how much a drinker usually consumes on any given occasion; festive drinking; how often drinkers get drunk; daily or nearly daily drinking; drinking with meals; and drinking in public places.
Drinking with meals or drinking daily or nearly daily presented the least health risk to the drinker, the report said.
"There are only a few countries in the world with the lowest PDS, or the least risky patterns of drinking," the report said. "These countries are in southern and western Europe. The highest PDS, i.e., the most risky patterns of drinking, have been found in Russia and Ukraine."
Alcohol is, in general, not good for your health, the report noted, though there are a few exceptions where low-risk drinking can help with some diseases. Alcohol kills 3.3 million people (5.9 percent of deaths) annually around the world, more than HIV/AIDS (2.8 percent of deaths), tuberculosis (1.7 percent) or violence (0.9 percent), it said.
Breaking down that 5.9 percent of death reveals that alcohol can cause some bad, bad things to happen, including certain cancers, heart disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal diseases, infectious diseases (TB and pneumonia among them), accidents and fetal disease.
"Most people are not aware of the health risks of alcohol consumption for diseases other than alcohol use disorders (AUDs). This is especially true for the impact of alcohol on cancers: from 4 percent to about 25 percent of the disease burden due to speciﬁc cancers are attributable to alcohol worldwide.
"Alcohol consumption also contributes to about 10 percent of the disease burden due to tuberculosis, epilepsy, haemorrhagic stroke and hypertensive heart disease in the world."
Sobering stuff. Read the full report here.
Hat tip: Independent Online