You might not be able to tell from all those beer commercials, but on a global scale, people are actually abstaining from alcohol. Even if the rest of the world isn't downing pints, however, Canadians seem to be drinking on their behalf.
A new study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), found Canadians drink more than 50 per cent above the global average. And it's no time to be imbibing — alcohol is now the third leading cause of the global burden of disease and injury.
"The burden of disease and injury is measured when someone dies prematurely or before the life expectancy in a certain country," explains Dr. Jürgen Rehm, study author and director of CAMH's Social and Epidemiological Research Department. This is also impacted by anything that may disable a fully healthy body, for example, losing a body part or organ, he adds.
In 2010, alcohol was responsible for 5.5 per cent of the overall burden, coming in third after high blood pressure and smoking. According to Rehm and his team, these types of injuries and diseases not only include common outcomes like liver cirrhosis (poor liver function) and traffic accidents, but other related diseases like certain types of cancers.
The report also notes that alcohol consumption in 2010 was found to cause more than 200 different types of diseases and injuries — including everything from a slip or fall caused by intoxication to more fatal outcomes like suicide.
In Canada, Rehm says one age group definitely sticks out. The age bracket of 15 to 29-year-olds was Canada's most unhealthy drinkers, defined by the report as drinking above certain limits.
"Most of the harm and most of the death happens to people who drink more than three drinks a day. Or someone who is drinking four or more drinks on a single occasion," he tells The Huffington Post Canada.
Even if these youngsters are partying across campuses and doing the most bar-hopping, Statistics Canada found since 2004, there has been a significant decrease in alcohol consumption among this age group, from 82.9 per cent to 70.8 per cent in 2011.
But Rehm says people in this age group worldwide still suffer the most deaths from alcohol.
Here is what alcohol consumption looks like around the world. Story continues below:
But what are we actually drinking? According to a 2011 study on worldwide alcohol consumption by the World Health Organization (WHO), Canadians preferred to drink beer (at 53 per cent) followed by wine and spirits, while another Canadian-based report found that we were drinking more wine.
But if you're thinking your glass of wine is better than that whiskey sour, Rehm says it's about looking at overall alcohol levels in your drink. And even though many studies have shown the health benefits of red wine for your heart, Rehm adds in the long run, the detrimental effects are worse than the combined beneficial ones.
"We're not telling people they should abstain from alcohol. Basically our message to Canadians is to drink less. Drink less overall and try drinking less in those high-risk occasions," he says.