Health Impacts of Alcohol

Alcohol carries a special social and cultural significance in Canada. It is also the most commonly used substance. While drinking is a personal choice, those that do choose to consume alcohol might not be aware of all the short- and long-term health risks. Drinking beyond one’s limits can result in confusion, loss of coordination, chronic illness and impact to the brain.

Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines

Drinking in moderation is key for reducing the long-term health risks associated with alcohol. To increase awareness and start public discussions about drinking in moderation, a set of national low-risk alcohol drinking guidelines was established. The guidelines are intended for individuals aged 25 to 65 who choose to drink. They also provide information on how to reduce the risk of alcohol-related harm. Some of the low-risk guidance includes:

  • Understanding when not to drink, such as when an individual needs to drive or is responsible for the care of others;
  • Setting a limit of 2 drinks per occasion for women, 3 drinks per occasion for men; and
  • Setting a limit of 10 drinks a week for women and 15 drinks a week for men;

Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines: Communications Toolkit


Costs of Alcohol Use

According to the Alcohol Drug Summary, 78% of the general population (aged 15 and over) reported alcohol past-year use in 2017. Alcohol can result in numerous health impacts. It also contributes to the overall cost of substance use. The greatest impact is in lost productivity and healthcare costs. Other sectors impacted include criminal justice, business and industry, as well as research and prevention, damage to property and motor vehicles, and workplace costs. From 2007 to 2014, alcohol contributed:

  • $14.6 billion to the overall cost of substance use;
  • $5.9 billion to lost productivity;
  • $4.2 billion to healthcare; and
  • $3.2 billion to criminal justice







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