This map of global alcohol consumption is getting a lot of play on social media today. It’s from the World Health Organization’s new Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health and depicts total alcohol consumption per capita. As you can see, Russia is by far the booziest country in the world. Australia, Canada, South Africa and much of Western Europe are also top consumers of alcohol per capita.
It’s an interesting map. But what is most revealing of this report is not where the most alcohol is consumed, but where it’s the deadliest. Worldwide the report finds that 3.3 million deaths are related to alcohol consumption each year. This accounts for about 5.9% of all global deaths. Where these deaths occur are not at all evenly distributed.
To understand this map, you need to know one key concept in public health: the DALY. DALY stands for Disability Adjusted Life Year. DALYs are the number of years of life that is lost due to a disease or ill health and is the standard method public health professionals measure the overall burden of a specific disease. In all, the report finds that 139 million DALYs or 5.1% of the global burden of disease and injury, were attributable to alcohol consumption.
This is where most of those DALYs come from:
“Alcohol-attributable fraction (AAF)” is the proportion of all diseases and deaths that are
attributable to alcohol. As you can see, Europe has the highest burden of alcohol related morbidity, accounting for over double the global average.
Alcohol related illness and death are a serious public health concern. Heavy consumption takes a heavy toll on public health systems.