A global study has found that consuming alcohol in moderation is not safe, BBC reports.
Even the occasional drink is harmful to health, according to the ‘Global Burden of Disease’ study, a rolling project based at the University of Washington, in Seattle, which suggests governments should think of advising people to abstain completely from drinking.
The researchers admit moderate drinking may protect against heart disease but found that the risk of cancer and other diseases outweighs these protections.
The study said alcohol led to 2.8 million deaths in 2016. It was the leading risk factor for premature mortality and disability in the 15 to 49 age group, accounting for 20 percent of deaths.
A study author said its findings were the most significant to date because of the range of factors considered.
The study looked at levels of alcohol use and its health effects in 195 countries, including the UK, between 1990 and 2016.
Analysing data from 15 to 95-year-olds, the researchers compared people who did not drink at all with those who had one alcoholic drink a day.
They found that out of 100,000 non-drinkers, 914 would develop an alcohol-related health problem such as cancer or suffer an injury.
But an extra four people would be affected if people drank one alcoholic drink a day - an increased risk of 0.5 percent.
For people who had two alcoholic drinks a day, 63 more people developed a condition within a year - an increase of 7 percent.
And for those who consumed five drinks every day, there was an increase of 37 percent, or 338 people, who developed a health problem.
One in three, or 2.4 billion people around the world, drink alcohol, the study shows. A quarter of women and 39 percent of men drink. Denmark has the most drinkers with 95.3 percent of women, and 97.1 percent of men. Pakistan has the fewest male drinkers as 0.8 percent and Bangladesh the fewest women 0.3 percent. Men in Romania and women in Ukraine drink the most which is 8.2 and 4.2 drinks a day respectively, while women in the UK take the eighth highest place in the female drinking league, with an average of three drinks a day.
“Alcohol poses dire ramifications for future population health in the absence of policy action today. Our results indicate that alcohol use and its harmful effects on health could become a growing challenge as countries become more developed, and enacting or maintaining strong alcohol control policies will be vital,” said the report’s senior author, Prof Emmanuela Gakidou.