Alcohol Use Disorders (58) The single most important cause of harm to others? (5)

16 February, 2024

["It can be argued that alcohol use disorders are the single most important cause of harm to others (accidents, violence, gender-based violence)."]

Eduardo, you said: "I must confess that I took that phrase from an article (that I cannot locate now, despite having tried hard) and it caught my attention powerfully."

In fact, it wasn't in an article but came from me :-) Whenever we come together on projects like this, it can be thought-provoking, which is one reason I enjoy these discussions so much. Our colleagues at WHO call it "Share, Spark, Challenge" for mutual learning.

I'm sure my thought isn't original. Many must have articulated this before. But I suspect it is neglected and could be an interesting line of enquiry for our discussion. I do wonder what research has been done to support (or refute) the assertion, and to ask whether alcohol control efforts could be framing this in a way that could be beneficial. (Taken literally the assertion doesn't hold because clearly there are other non-medical factors such as war that do more harm. And yet it may hold true as the most important *medical* cause of harm to others.)

"I have tried to look for causes of damage to the health of others, even through artificial intelligence, but I have not gotten satisfactory answers.

Yes, I had also done a very brief google search and similarly didn't find good answers. If any HIFA member has the time to do a little desk research on this subject, we would be very grateful.

Some questions to explore (from my previous message):

What are the global estimates for harm to others caused by alcohol use disorders?

How does this compare with other medical causes of harm?

How might this harm be categorised (eg accidents, violence, gender-based violence) and quantified?

What is the picture in different countries?

What attempts (if any) are being made to measure harm to others?

What measures can be taken at national, community and individual level to better protect people from harm?

If alcohol is indeed one of the greatest causes of harm to others, is this truly understood by the general public, by health professionals, and by policymakers?

Best wishes, Neil

HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of HIFA (Healthcare Information For All), a global health community that brings all stakeholders together around the shared goal of universal access to reliable healthcare information. HIFA has 20,000 members in 180 countries, interacting in four languages and representing all parts of the global evidence ecosystem. HIFA is administered by Global Healthcare Information Network, a UK-based nonprofit in official relations with the World Health Organization. Email: