No Amount Of Alcohol Is Safe To Drink, Game-Changing Study Reveals

By Beth Leipholtz 08/28/18

Alcohol accounted for 20% of deaths in 2016, according to a new report.

Man saying no to alcoholic beverage

Even one drink occasionally may be one too many, researchers are now saying.

This information came from the Global Burden of Diseases study, which is carried out at the University of Washington in Seattle, and was recently published in the Lancet medical journal

According to the Guardian, the Global Burden of Diseases study is the “largest and most detailed research carried out on the effects of alcohol.”

The researchers found that in 2016, alcohol led to 2.8 million deaths and was the leading risk factor when it came to premature mortality and disability in those ages 15 to 49, in which it accounted for 20% of deaths. 

According to the study, current habits when it comes to alcohol "pose dire ramifications for future population health in the absence of policy action today. Alcohol use contributes to health loss from many causes and exacts its toll across the lifespan, particularly among men.”

Researchers at the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation studied the alcohol intake from people in 195 countries using data from 694 different sources ranging from 1990 to 2016 to determine "how common drinking was." 

They then examined 592 worldwide studies involving 28 million people to determine the potential health risks associated with alcohol. 

Specifically, the study found that alcohol consumption was a cause of cancer in those over age 50, especially women. According to previous research, one in 13 breast cancer diagnoses in the UK were related to alcohol.

The study determined that across the world, 27.1% of cancer deaths in females and 18.9% in men over age 50 were connected to alcohol consumption. 

Among those in younger age groups, causes of death linked to alcohol were tuberculosis (1.4% of deaths), road injuries (1.2%) and self-harm (1.1%).

Additionally, about 2.4 billion people around the world drink alcohol. One-quarter of women drink, while 39% of men do.

Senior author Emmanuela Gakidou of the University of Washington says that the results indicate that new policies on alcohol may be necessary in the future.

“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,” she told the Guardian.

Dr. Robyn Burton, of King’s College London, stated in a commentary in the Lancet that the study results were clear.

“Alcohol is a colossal global health issue and small reductions in health-related harms at low levels of alcohol intake are outweighed by the increased risk of other health-related harms, including cancer,” she wrote. 

Burton stated that when it comes to public policy, methods to reduce alcohol intake could include price increases, taxation and setting prices depending on the strength of the drink. She also stated that limiting alcohol marketing could help.

Dr. Max Griswold, lead author of the study, said, "Previous studies have found a protective effect of alcohol on some conditions, but we found that the combined health risks associated with alcohol increases with any amount of alcohol.

"The strong association between alcohol consumption and the risk of cancer, injuries, and infectious diseases offset the protective effects for heart disease in our study. Although the health risks associated with alcohol start off being small with one drink a day, they then rise rapidly as people drink more."

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.