Landmark EU report shows the full burden of alcohol in Europe

01/06/2006

Each year alcohol kills 115.000 people in Europe and costs 125 billion euros to EU society. This is equivalent to 1.3% GDP.

Brussels, 1 June: A 400 page report analysing the health, social and economic impact of alcohol in Europe, has been released today by the by the European Commission, setting out the scientific evidence that will inform the Commission's first-ever strategy on alcohol due out later this year.

Derek Rutherford, Secretary of EUROCARE, said: "Alcohol abuse places a heavy burden of economic and social cost on Europe. If it were any substance other than alcohol there would certainly be parliamentary and ministerial demands for action."

The report points at Europe as the heaviest drinking region of the world and shows that the styles and levels of drinking throughout Europe are much more similar than commonly believed.

According to the report, alcohol is one of the major public health problems in Europe. Causing some 60 different types of diseases and conditions (including accidents and injuries, mental and behavioural problems, cancers, heart diseases and stroke), alcohol is responsible for 7.4% of all ill-health and early death in the EU.

The report also shows that alcohol is a key cause of harm to people other than the drinker including some 60,000 underweight births, up to 9 million children living in families adversely affected by alcohol, the 10,000 'innocent' deaths that occur to bystanders or passengers from drink-drivers, and the 2,000 murders that occur each year.

"It is the children who pay the price of the last round. Much is said about passive smoking, little recognition is given to third party victims of alcohol. Action needs political courage but we are dealing with not just an irresistible pleasure but with massive vested interest," says Mr Rutherford.

Alcohol costs Europe an estimated 125 billion euros (equivalent to €650 for each household) every year due to ill-health, accidents and injuries, crime and lost productivity.

Contrary to what some representatives of the alcohol industry have tried to make policy makers believe, the report shows that education and public awareness campaigns are simply not good enough on their own in reducing the harm done by alcohol. In contrast, the report shows that we need to be tough on drink driving, and make sure that alcohol is not too cheap or easily marketed, supported by widespread campaigns if we are going to make a difference in reducing alcohol's toll on Europe.

"What really makes the need for action so urgent is that we know 'what works' in reducing this toll," says Dr Anderson, lead author of the report and international public health expert. "All we need now is the will to do something about it."

Mr Rutherford emphasized: "Whilst price is a major factor in controlling consumption a less contentious and a more politically amenable action would be to control the volume of advertising and ban sports sponsorship which is the most insidious marketing strategy of the alcohol industry."

EUROCARE and its members welcome the report and hope it will be a useful contribution to the process of preparing the EU's common alcohol strategy to be published later this year.

EUROCARE is an alliance of 45 voluntary and non-governmental organisations from all over Europe dedicated to promote the prevention and reduction of alcohol related harm in Europe.

Notes

  1. For further information please contact Derek Rutherford, Secretary: Tel: +44 1480 466766 or Walter Farke, Public Relations Officer Tel: + 32 (0)2 732 6782
  2. The report 'Alcohol in Europe: a public health perspective' was written by Dr Peter Anderson and Ben Baumberg for the Institute of Alcohol Studies (www.ias.org.uk), and funded by a grant from the European Commission. It represents the views of its authors and not that of the Commission itself.
  3. The report can be downloaded from the European Commission's Health Portal, http://ec.europa.eu/health-eu/index_en.htm

For key facts on alcohol open the attached document (PDF 66kb)

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