Harmful alcohol use is on the rise — and experts warn it’s not slowing down

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Alcohol consumption is on the rise — and it doesn’t look to be slowing down: study
WATCH: A new study found that alcohol consumption across the world has increased, and by 2030, the amount of alcohol people drink will only go up – May 9, 2019

Health experts want people across the world to drink less alcohol, but according to a recent study, some of us are drinking more booze — and more often.

A new study published in medical journal the Lancet found that between 1990 and 2017, global alcohol consumption rates increased from 5.9 litres annually per person to 6.5 litres. What’s more, researchers predict that this number will jump to 7.6 litres by the year 2030.

In other words, people are drinking more alcohol and the trend is expected to continue upward.

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The study, conducted by researchers in Canada and Germany, also discovered that more people are drinking alcohol, too.

“The prevalence of current drinking increased from 45 per cent in 1990 to 47 per cent in 2017,” the researchers wrote. The amount of “heavy episodic drinkers” — a.k.a binge drinkers — also increased to 20 per cent in 2017 from 18.5 per cent in 1990.

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When it comes to non-drinkers, the percentage of people who abstain from alcohol decreased from 46 per cent in 1990 to 43 per cent in 2017.

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The researchers predict that these trends will continue, meaning that global goals for reducing alcohol intake are unlikely to happen.

“We forecast… trends to continue, with abstinence decreasing to 40 per cent by 2030… and the proportion of current drinkers increasing to 50 per cent by 2030,” the researchers wrote.

The number of people who binge drink is also expected to increase, rising to an estimate of 23 per cent in 2030.

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The countries with the largest uptick in drinking are India and Vietnam, while booze consumption dropped in Australia, the U.K. and Canada.

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The increase in global alcohol consumption has health experts concerned.

A 2018 report found that no amount of alcohol is safe to drink, and any possible benefit of light drinking — including reducing heart disease — is outweighed by the combined health risks associated with alcohol.

The study, published in the Lancet, said alcohol was the leading risk factor for disease and premature death in men and women between the ages of 15 and 49 across the world in 2016, accounting for nearly one in 10 deaths. That same year, alcohol was associated with 2.8-million deaths.

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The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction says that the economic cost of alcohol-related harm across Canada is $14.6 billion per year. After tobacco, booze is the substance that causes the most harm in the country, the centre says.

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Dr. Catherine Paradis, the lead alcohol expert at the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, previously told Global News that Canadians lack education around the harms of alcohol.

“Alcohol literacy in our population is extremely low,” Paradis said. “According to some data we have, no more than 20 per cent of the population is aware that alcohol can cause seven different types of cancer.”

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Given the fact that 78 per cent of Canadians in 2017 reported consuming an alcoholic beverage in the past year — and 21 per cent of those drinkers were at risk for chronic effects — it’s important that people are aware of health repercussions.

Paradis says that if Canadians are going to consume alcohol, it’s best to follow the country’s low-risk drinking guidelines.

“According to those guidelines, to reduce your risk of long-term effects, men should never take more than three drinks per occasion, and no more than 15 per week,” she said.

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“For women, it’s two per day and 10 per week. That means you need to have at least two days of abstinence a week, and you can’t have 10 drinks on a Saturday.”

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While the low-risk guidelines indicate best practices around regular alcohol consumption, the most you should ever drink in one day is only slightly higher, Paradis said.

“To reduce your risk of accident and injury, it is recommended that men should never have more than four [drinks] per occasion, and women should never exceed three drinks,” she said.

— With a file from Katie Dangerfield

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