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Alcohol intake has severe dangers for young people and offers no health benefits

The risk of dangerous alcohol intake is highest among young men, says a 2022 study.

According to a recent investigation that was published in The Lancet, young people are more susceptible to the negative effects of alcohol intake than older adults. This study is the first to report alcohol risk by age, sex, year, and geographic region.

It advises that age- and location-based guidelines for alcohol consumption should be used globally, with the harshest recommendations being made for males between the ages of 15 and 39, who are most at risk of drinking alcohol harmfully around the world.

According to the research, persons over 40 without underlying medical issues may benefit from moderate alcohol intake between one and two standard drinks per day, including a decreased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.

“Even if a conservative approach is taken and the lowest level of safe consumption is used to set policy recommendations, this implies that the recommended level of alcohol consumption is still too high for younger populations. Our estimates, based on currently available evidence, support guidelines that differ by age and region. Understanding the variation in the level of alcohol consumption that minimizes the risk of health loss for populations can aid in setting effective consumption guidelines, supporting alcohol control policies, monitoring progress in reducing harmful alcohol use, and designing public health risk messaging,” says lead author Dana Bryazka, researcher at IHME.

Researchers estimated that 1.34 billion people consumed dangerous levels of alcohol in 2020 using data of alcohol usage in 204 countries. Males between the ages of 15 and 39 made up the majority of the population drinking excessive amounts of alcohol across all regions. For this age group, drinking alcohol does not offer any health benefits and instead poses a number of health risks, with this age group accounting for 60% of all alcohol-related injuries, including homicides, suicides, and auto accidents.

Using data from the 2020 Global Burden of Disease for men and women aged 15 and older and aged 15 to 95 between 1990 and 2020 in 204 nations and territories, the researchers examined the impact of alcohol intake on 22 health outcomes, including injuries, cardiovascular diseases, and malignancies. The researchers used this information to calculate the amount of alcohol that should be consumed on average each day to reduce risk to a community. The study also calculates a crucial quantity: the maximum amount of alcohol a person can consume without endangering their health more than someone who abstains from alcohol.

Before incurring health damage, people between the ages of 15 and 39 were advised to have 0.136 standard drinks per day of alcohol (a little more than one-tenth of a standard drink). For females aged 15 to 39, that amount was slightly higher at 0.273 drinks (about a quarter of a standard drink per day). 10 grammes of pure alcohol are considered one standard drink, which is equal to a shot of whiskey or other spirits (30 ml or 1.0 fluid ounces) at 40% alcohol by volume, a can or bottle of beer (375 ml or 12 fluid ounces) at 3.5 percent alcohol by volume, or a small glass of red wine (3.4 ounces or 100 ml) at 13 percent alcohol by volume.

A small quantity of alcohol consumption, according to the analysis, may have some advantages for persons 40 and older who are otherwise healthy, such as lowering the risk of developing diabetes, ischemic heart disease, and stroke. In average, the acceptable alcohol consumption levels for people between the ages of 40 and 64 in 2020 ranged from roughly half a standard drink per day (0.527 drinks for men and 0.562 drinks for women) to over two standard drinks (1.69 standard drinks per day for males and 1.82 for females). The hazards of health loss from alcohol intake were achieved for people over 65 in 2020 after consuming little more than three standard drinks per day (3.19 drinks for males and 3.51 for females).

According to the projections, moderate alcohol use in people over 40 without underlying medical issues may be linked to better health outcomes, particularly in groups where cardiovascular disease is more prevalent.

There were significant regional differences in the distribution of disease burden for a given age group, which had an impact on the risks associated with alcohol use.

In north Africa and the Middle East, among people aged 55 to 59, cardiovascular disease accounted for 30.7% of alcohol-related health risks, malignancies for 12.6%, and tuberculosis for less than 1%. In comparison, in the same age range in central sub-Saharan Africa, cardiovascular disease accounted for 20% of alcohol-related health risks, cancer for 9.8%, and tuberculosis for 10%. Therefore, the recommended daily intake for this age group in north Africa and the Middle East was 0.876 drinks, whereas in central sub-Saharan Africa it was 0.596 drinks.

Regardless of location, age, sex, or year, the average daily alcohol intake for adults remained modest at 0 to 1.87 standard drinks.

To help focus alcohol control efforts, these estimations were used to determine the percentage of the population who consumed alcohol in amounts that exceeded these criteria by area, age, sex, and year.

1.03 billion men and 0.312 billion women consumed hazardous amounts of alcohol in 2020, with 59.1% of those drinking being between the ages of 15 and 39 and 76.7 percent of them being men. In Australasia, western Europe, and central Europe, young males were disproportionately affected by harmful alcohol usage.

“Although the risks associated with alcohol consumption are similar for males and females, young males stood out as the group with the highest level of harmful alcohol consumption. This is because a larger proportion of males compared to females consume alcohol and their average level of consumption is also significantly higher,” says Dr Gakidou.

The lack of an analysis of drinking patterns is one of the paper’s weaknesses, as acknowledged by the authors. As a result, this study did not make a distinction between people who occasionally participate in heavy episodic drinking and people who regularly drink the same amount of alcohol over a period of time.

Additionally, alcohol consumption was self-reported, which may have introduced bias. Additionally, the study was unable to include information on consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic due to delays in routine data collection caused by the pandemic, which may also have had an impact on these estimates.

Alcohol intake has severe dangers for young people and offers no health benefits

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