Health & injury

  • Alcohol consumption is an important risk factor for more than 60 different disorders (WHO, 2007).
  • Alcohol is causally related to cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, colorectum and female breast (Bann et al., 2007).
  • There is debate about the health benefits of moderate drinking, particularly from a reduction in cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk for middle-aged and older people, but any benefit (in terms of disability-adjusted life years gained) appears to be outweighed by other harms in all age-groups from injury and other health problems (Rehm et al., 2009).
  • An estimated 3.8% of all global deaths and 4.6% of the global burden of disease are attributable to alcohol (Rehm et al., 2009).
  • In high-income countries, alcohol is the second leading risk factor for burden of disease (6.7%) (WHO, 2009).
  • Alcohol is responsible for approximately 20% of deaths due to motor vehicle accidents; 30% of deaths due to oesophageal cancer, liver cancer, epilepsy and homicide; and 50% of deaths due to liver cirrhosis (WHO, 2009).
  • For healthy adults, drinking more than two standard drinks per day increases the risk of death from alcohol-related disease or injury to over one in 100 (National Health & Medical Research Council, 2009).
  • Drinking four standard drinks on a single occasion more than doubles the relative risk of an injury in the six hours afterwards (National Health & Medical Research Council 2009).
New Zealand
  • Between 600 and 800 people in New Zealand have been estimated to die each year from alcohol-related causes (Berl 2009; Connor et al, 2013).
  • 3.9% of health loss from all causes in New Zealand (measured in disability-adjusted life-years) is estimated to be attributable to alcohol (Ministry of Health, 2013a).
  • In New Zealand, more than half (52%) of alcohol-related deaths in males and one-quarter (25%) of alcohol-related deaths in females are estimated to be due to injuries (Connor et al, 2013).
  • Nearly one-fifth of all deaths for males and one-tenth of all deaths for females aged between 20 and 24 are attributable to alcohol use (Law Commission, 2009, p72).
  • Between 18% and 35% of injury-based emergency department presentations are estimated to be alcohol-related, rising to between 60% and 70% during the weekend (Jones et al., 2009; Humphrey et al., 2003).
  • A study of falls in working adults (aged 25 to 60) found that approximately 20% of unintentional falls at home may be attributable to alcohol consumption (Kool et al., 2008).
  • Alcohol is involved in half of the patients presenting with facial fractures (Lee and Snape, 2008).
  • Approximately 45% of fire fatalities each year involve alcohol (Millar, 2005).
  • Approximately 11% of all drowning between 2010-2012 involve alcohol (Water Safety New Zealand, 2013).
  • Approximately 23,000 people are treated in the publicly-funded health system each year for alcohol or other drug addictions (NCAT, 2008).
  • 14% of the population are predicted to meet the criteria for a substance use disorder at some time in their lives (Wells et al., 2007).