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Public health problems caused by harmful use of alcohol

This World Health Assembly resolution calls on WHO to intensify international collaboration in reducing public health problems caused by the harmful use of alcohol.

The hazardous and harmful use of alcohol has now become one of the most important risks to health: it is the leading risk factor in developing countries with low mortality rates and ranks third in developed countries, according to the World Health Report 2002.

While alcohol use is deeply embedded in many societies, recent years have seen changes in drinking patterns across the globe: rates of consumption, drinking to excess among the general population and heavy episodic drinking among young people are on the rise in many countries.

Health problems associated with alcohol consumption have reached alarming levels, and alcohol use contributes to a wide range of diseases, health conditions and high-risk behaviours, from mental disorders and road traffic injuries, to liver diseases and unsafe sexual behaviour.

Through this WHA resolution, WHO’s Secretariat is requested to address a number of areas related to the issue of harmful use of alcohol, including: gathering and sharing scientific information on alcohol consumption and related public health problems; preparing research and policy initiatives and recommendations for effective policies and interventions; providing support to Member States in monitoring alcohol-related harm and implementing effective strategies and promoting identification and management of alcohol-use disorders in primary health care.

The World Health Assembly takes note that the word 'harmful' in this resolution refers only to the public health effects of alcohol use and does not intend to prejudice the religious beliefs or cultural norms of any Member State.

World Health Assembly resolution

WHA58.26 - Public health problems caused by harmful use of alcohol [pdf 16kb]

WHO Secretariat Report: Public health problems caused by harmful use of alcohol

Report by the Secretariat document A58/18 [pdf 142kb]

Related links

Department of Mental Health and Substance Dependence (MSD)
Health topics: alcohol drinking
Management of substance abuse


World Health Report 2002: Reducing Risks, Promoting Healthy Life

Contact us

Dr Svetlana Akselrod
Assistant Director-General
Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health
World Health Organization

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