Alcohol and Health


The consumption of alcohol is very common worldwide, although it carries a risk of adverse health and social consequences related to its intoxicating, toxic and dependence-producing properties. Overall, 4% of the global burden of disease is attributable to alcohol, which accounts for about as much death and disability globally as tobacco or hypertension. Alcohol consumption is the leading risk factor for disease burden in low mortality developing countries and the third largest risk factor in developed countries. Beyond the numerous chronic health effects, alcohol use is associated with an increased risk of acute health conditions, such as injuries, including from traffic accidents. Furthermore, harmful drinking among young people and women is an increasing concern in many countries. Drinking to intoxication and heavy episodic drinking are frequent among adolescents and young adults, with the negative impact of alcohol use being greater in younger age groups of both sexes. The global burden related to alcohol consumption, both in terms of morbidity and mortality, is considerable.

A Global Strategy to Reduce Harmful Use of Alcohol

In May 2008, the World Health Assembly have considered the report of the Secretariat "Strategies to reduce the harmful use of alcohol" and adopted the resolution WHA 61.4 that, inter alia, mandated WHO to prepare a draft global strategy to reduce harmful use of alcohol. The planned process of implementing the resolution and preparing the draft strategy involved the consultation and collaboration of Member States, as well as the consultation of NGOs, Health professionals and economic actors.

The WMA participated in the Roundtable meeting with NGOs and health professionals on ways they could contribute to reducing harmful use of alcohol (24-25 November 2008) and presented a statement based on its current Policy on this issue.

A draft of the WHO Global Strategy to Reduce Harmful Use of Alcohol was approved by the WHO Executive Board at its January 2010 session. The WMA made a public statement on behalf of the World Health Professional Alliance at the January session backing the strategy in view of its adoption. The Strategy was finally approved by the World Health Assembly in May 2010.

Read more: The Global Strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol (WHO website)

WMA Current Policy & Action

The WMA has a long-standing commitment towards the reduction of the harmful impact of alcohol on health and society. The core policy of the Association is its Statement on Reducing the Global Impact of Alcohol on Health and Society adopted in Santiago in October 2005 and more recently the Declaration on Alcohol (Moscow, October 2015).

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