Who-logoThe World Health Organization (WHO) is the United Nations agency specialising in health and health promotion worldwide. The organisation is responsible for providing direction and guidance on health matters, monitoring and assessing health trends, and setting standards for the provision of healthcare. 

WHO has identified alcohol as the fifth leading risk factor for premature death and disability in the world and the third leading contributor to disease burden in developed countries. WHO has called for comprehensive policy measures to reduce alcohol-related harm, not just for drinkers but also for those individuals and groups who are at risk of being negatively affected by others’ drinking. 

The impact of problem alcohol use is greatest in the European region which has the highest alcohol consumption of all WHO regions – twice as high as the world average. The WHO Regional Office for Europe has played a significant role in facilitating policy formulation and action to address harmful alcohol use at national and regional levels within Europe. Policy guidance includes the European Alcohol Action Plan and a Framework for alcohol policy in the WHO European Region.

Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health 2018

The harmful use of alcohol results in the death of 3 million people annually worldwide, or 1 in 20 deaths. It accounts for 5.3% of the global burden of disease and is a leading cause of premature death.

WHO’s most recently published global status report on alcohol and health analyses consumption, drinking patterns, health consequences and policy responses to reducing alcohol harm in over 100 countries across the world. The report concludes that too few countries are using effective policy options to prevent death, disease and injury from alcohol use. 

Effective strategies to reduce harmful drinking include: increasing taxation and/or price, reducing availability through allowing fewer outlets to sell alcohol, raising age limits for those buying alcohol, and implementing effective drink-driving measures. 

Read report and individual country profiles.