Health policies and data


Tackling Harmful Alcohol Use

Economics and Public Health Policy

Alcoholic beverages, and their harmful use, have been familiar fixtures in human societies since the beginning of recorded history. Worldwide, alcohol is a leading cause of ill health and premature mortality. It accounts for 1 in 17 deaths, and for a significant proportion of disabilities, especially in men. In OECD countries, alcohol consumption is about twice the world average. Its social costs are estimated in excess of 1% of GDP in high- and middle-income countries. When it is not the result of addiction, alcohol use is an individual choice, driven by social norms, with strong cultural connotations. This is reflected in unique patterns of social disparity in drinking, showing the well-to-do in some cases more prone to hazardous use of alcohol, and a polarisation of problem-drinking at the two ends of the social spectrum. Certain patterns of drinking have social impacts, which provide a strong economic rationale for governments to influence the use of alcohol through policies aimed at curbing harms, including those occurring to people other than drinkers. Some policy approaches are more effective and efficient than others, depending on their ability to trigger changes in social norms, and on how well they can target the groups that are most at risk. This book provides a detailed examination of trends and social disparities in alcohol consumption. It offers a wide-ranging assessment of the health, social and economic impacts of key policy options for tackling alcohol-related harms in three OECD countries (Canada, the Czech Republic and Germany), extracting relevant policy messages for a broader set of countries.  

Published on May 12, 2015Also available in: French

SUMMARIESavailable in 6 languages

English Tackling Harmful Alcohol Use (Summary in English)
French Lutter contre la consommation nocive d’alcool
Spanish Atacar el consumo nocivo del alcohol
German Eindämmung von schädlichem Alkoholkonsum
Japanese 有害な飲酒への取り組み
Italian Contrastare l’uso dannoso di alcol


Acronyms and abbreviations
Executive summary
Alcohol: The public health side of a social phenomenon
Trends in alcohol consumption in OECD countries
Social disparities in alcohol drinking
The impact of alcohol consumption on global health
Tackling alcohol-related harms: What policy approaches?
Alcohol advertising and heavy drinking
How does minimum unit pricing for alcohol affect different types of drinkers?
A business case for reducing alcohol-related harm in the workplace
Health and economic impacts of key alcohol policy options
Benefits of population-wide approaches to prevention: The case of minimum alcohol prices
Alcohol, the individual and society: A call for coherent alcohol policies
Annexes2 chapters available
Supplementary figures and tables
Authors' and contributors' biographies
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