WHO STUDY: Austria, international leader in alcohol consumption

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In its latest status report, the World Health Organization (WHO) draws attention to the fact that almost three million people die every year as a result of drinking too much alcohol. Austria is an international leader in alcohol consumption. For historical reasons, Beer is drunk in abundance in this country.

On average, every person aged 15 and over in Austria drinks twelve liters of pure alcohol per year – if you exclude the alcohol content of wine, beer, or spirits. Austria is primarily a nation of beer drinkers, says Jürgen Rehm from the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Canada. This is due to historical reasons.

In contrast to wine, hops are a relatively undemanding plant. It proliferates and could be quickly cultivated and processed again in areas devastated by war. In the course of global warming, however, drinking preferences in Austria could change – if the wine-growing regions in this country expand, according to the co-author of a study on cultural drinking habits.

Drinking like 100 years ago
A closer look at the data reveals one thing in particular: Europe is where the most alcohol is consumed. Of the 20 countries in the world where people drink the most, 14 are in the European Union. Although this can be explained historically, it is still difficult.
“We still drink as if we were out in the fields all day, have our first snack at nine o’clock, go home at noon and drink our first alcohol with lunch – and then maybe again in the evening,” says the scientist. These amounts of alcohol are too high for today’s hectic world.

What measures can work
The WHO recommends taking political measures against high alcohol consumption. In Austria and Germany, taxes on alcohol are extremely low, says Jürgen Rehm. He also believes that advertising could be improved. The scientist advocates a total ban on advertising and marketing – including on social media, which are increasingly used by young people.
High alcohol consumption leads to increased risks of illness. There are four classic areas to mention here: Cancer, cardiovascular diseases, liver problems, and accidents. The WHO also emphasizes that “less is more”: two glasses of wine or two bottles of beer a day is already too much.

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