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Alcohol Causes Almost 80,000 Deaths in Americas Each Year, Report Finds

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A new report from the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) says that alcohol consumption results in roughly 80,000 deaths in the Americas (including North, South, and Central America) each year.

The report is based on a recent study completed by PAHO/WHO advisors Vilma Gawryszewski and Maristela Monteiro and is currently available to read in the scientific journal Addiction. Gawryszewski, Monteiro, and a team of researchers studied alcohol-related deaths over a three-year period (2007-2009) across sixteen countries in the Americas.

The finding: death would not have occurred without alcohol playing a vital role in an annual average of 79,456 cases. Liver disease and neuropsychiatric disorders caused by alcohol most often played a central role in these deaths.

But the report’s authors say that even that number (79,456) is too low. They suggest that alcohol probably played a critical role in many other deaths — like those caused by heart disease, stroke, or traffic accident — but went unreported by coroners and family members.

“Our study simply shows how many deaths are wholly attributable to alcohol consumption,” the authors noted. “The number of deaths for which alcohol consumption is a significant contributing factor is likely to be much higher.”

Those behind the study also note that there were wide variations in alcohol-related death rates between the nations studied. For example, while El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua all had alcohol-related death rates above 20 (out of 100,000 annual deaths), rates were much lower in Colombia (1.8), Canada (5.7), and Costa Rica (5.8).

But one thing was consistent across the board: in every country studied, men were far more likely to succumb to alcohol-related deaths. For example, in Canada and the United States men are 3.2 times more likely to suffer an alcohol-related death. But in El Salvador that number is even higher, with men almost 28 times more likely than women to suffer an alcohol-related death.

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