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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UNC: Researchers Find Little Progress on Alcohol Policy Globally, Call for Stronger Approach

Alcohol causes three million deaths per year worldwide. Almost ten years ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) adopted a voluntary global strategy for reducing harmful use of alcohol. However, a new analysis by researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Boston University reports that few countries have adopted effective measures to decrease alcohol consumption.

According to the study, alcohol continues to be the seventh leading cause of death and disability worldwide, and it is the leading cause for people ages 15 to 49 years old.

The analysis, part of a commentary in the latest issue of the WHO Bulletin (PDF), looks at the effects of the 2010 Global strategy to reduce harmful use of alcohol and ultimately calls for a stronger, legally-binding commitment for nations to address alcohol consumption.

The researchers used 2015 and 2016 survey responses from more than 170 countries to assess whether they were adopting what WHO has termed the “best buys” for reducing alcohol problems — the most effective and cost-effective approaches. As with tobacco, the authors write, taxing alcohol can reduce consumption across the board, yet in most countries taxes and prices have fallen behind inflation rates.

Based on their findings and previous research, the authors conclude that alcohol consumption will likely rise by 17 percent by 2030, while the WHO has set a goal of reducing it by 10 percent by 2025.

“Alcohol is too often a hidden co-factor,” says Dr. Pamela Trangenstein, co-author of the commentary and an assistant professor in the Department of Health Behavior at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health. “It is a carcinogen with significant effects on non-drinkers, including violence, family disruption and child abuse.”

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