Background: The health risks associated with moderate alcohol consumption continue to be debated. Small amounts of alcohol might lower the risk of some health outcomes but increase the risk of others, suggesting that the overall risk depends, in part, on background disease rates, which vary by region, age, sex, and year.
Methods: For this analysis, we constructed burden-weighted dose–response relative risk curves across 22 health outcomes to estimate the theoretical minimum risk exposure level (TMREL) and non-drinker equivalence (NDE), the consumption level at which the health risk is equivalent to that of a non-drinker, using disease rates from the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study (GBD) 2020 for 21 regions, including 204 countries and territories, by 5-year age group, sex, and year for individuals aged 15–95 years and older from 1990 to 2020. Based on the NDE, we quantified the population consuming harmful amounts of alcohol.
Findings: The burden-weighted relative risk curves for alcohol use varied by region and age. Among individuals aged 15–39 years in 2020, the TMREL varied between 0 (95% uncertainty interval 0–0) and 0·603 (0·400–1·00) standard drinks per day, and the NDE varied between 0·002 (0–0) and 1·75 (0·698–4·30) standard drinks per day. Among individuals aged 40 years and older, the burden-weighted relative risk curve was J-shaped for all regions, with a 2020 TMREL that ranged from 0·114 (0–0·403) to 1·87 (0·500–3·30) standard drinks per day and an NDE that ranged between 0·193 (0–0·900) and 6·94 (3·40–8·30) standard drinks per day. Among individuals consuming harmful amounts of alcohol in 2020, 59·1% (54·3–65·4) were aged 15–39 years and 76·9% (73·0–81·3) were male.
Interpretation: There is strong evidence to support recommendations on alcohol consumption varying by age and location. Stronger interventions, particularly those tailored towards younger individuals, are needed to reduce the substantial global health loss attributable to alcohol.
Funding: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Research reported in this publication was supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. S Afzal acknowledges the support for intellectual contributions to this manuscript by the Department of Community Medicine and Epidemiology at King Edward Medical University, Lahore, Pakistan. T Bärnighausen was supported by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation through the Alexander von Humboldt Professor award, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. L Belo acknowledges support from FCT in the scope of the project UIDP/04378/2020 and UIDB/04378/2020 of UCIBIO and the project LA/P/0140/2020 of i4HB. D Bennett is supported by the UK Medical Research Council Population Health Research Unit at the University of Oxford (Oxford, UK). M Carvalho acknowledges support from FCT in the scope of the project UIDP/04378/2020 and UIDB/04378/2020 of UCIBIO and the project LA/P/0140/2020 of i4HB. L Castro-de-Araujo was funded by the Medical Research Council (UK), Grant no. MR/T03355X/1 and by the National Institute of Mental Health Grant no. R01MH128911. FJ Elgar is supported by the Canada Research Chairs program. F Greaves acknowledges support from the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration for NW London. V K Gupta acknowledges funding support from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), Australia. VB Gupta acknowledges funding support from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), Australia. C Herteliu is partially supported by a grant from the Romanian National Authority for Scientific Research and Innovation, CNDS-UEFISCDI, project number PN-III-P4-ID-PCCF-2016-0084. C Herteliu is partially supported by a grant from the Romanian Ministry of Research Innovation and Digitalization, MCID, project number ID-585-CTR-42-PFE-2021. S Hussain was supported by the Operational Programme Research, Development and Education –Project, Postdoc2MUNI “(No. CZ.02.2.69/0.0/0.0/18_053/0016952). S M S Islam is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council and received funding from the National Heart Foundation of Australia. The Serbian part of this GBD-related contribution has been co-financed through Grant OI 175 014 of the Ministry of Education Science and Technological Development of the Republic of Serbia. M Kivimaki was supported by the Wellcome Trust (221854/Z/20/Z), the UK Medical Research Council (MR/S011676/1), the US National Institute on Aging (R01AG056477), and the Academy of Finland (350426). K Krishan is supported by the UGC Centre of Advanced Study (Phase II), awarded to the Department of Anthropology, Panjab University, Chandigarh, India. B Lacey acknowledges support from the UK Biobank, funded largely by the UK Medical Research Council and Wellcome. S Lorkowski acknowledges institutional support from the Competence Cluster for Nutrition and Cardiovascular Health (nutriCARD) Halle-Jena-Leipzig (Germany; German Federal Ministry of Education and Research; grant agreement number 01EA1808A). G Lucchetti received a productivity scholarship from the Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development — CNPq (Level 1D). J McGrath was supported by the Danish National Research Foundation (Niels Bohr Professor). J McGrath is employed by the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research (Australia), which receives support from the Queensland Health Department. C Parry acknowleges the South African Medical Research Council. A Peden is supported by a National Health and Medical Research Council Emerging Leadership Fellowship (Grant ID: APP2009306). M R Phillips was supported in part by the Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases - National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC. No. 81761128031). M Pinheiro acknowledges FCT for funding through program DL 57/2016 – Norma transitória. A Rahman acknowledges the support from the Data Science Research Unit in Charles Sturt University (Bathurst, NSW, Australia). U Saeed would like to acknowledge the International Center of Medical Sciences Research (ICMSR), Islamabad, Pakistan. A M Samy acknowledges support from Ain Shams University (Cairo, Egypt) and the Egyptian Fulbright Mission Program. N Senthil Kumar acknowledges the DBT, New Delhi sponsored Advanced State Level Biotech Hub (BT/NER/143/SP44475/2021), Mizoram University (Aizawl, Mizoram, India) for facilitating this work. F Sha is supported by the Shenzhen Science and Technology Program (Grant No. KQTD20190929172835662). A Shetty acknowledges Kasturba Medical College (Mangalore, India) and Manipal Academy of Higher Education (Manipal, India) for all the academic support. R Shrestha acknowledges a career development award from the National Institutes of Health (K01DA051346). D Silva was financed in part by the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior—Brazil (CAPES)—Finance Code 001 and is supported in part by CNPq - Brazil (309589/2021-5). D Sleet acknowledges partial support from Veritas Management Group, Inc and The Bizzell Group, LLC. S Trias-Llimós acknowledges research funding from the Juan de la Cierva-Formación program of the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (FJC-2019-039314-I).
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Publisher Copyright: © 2022 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an Open Access article under the CC BY 4.0 license
- Alcohol Drinking/adverse effects
- Child, Preschool
- Global Burden of Disease
- Global Health
- Middle Aged
- Quality-Adjusted Life Years
- Risk Factors