One in 20 of the world's deaths in 2016 - a figure equating to some three million people - were caused by the harmful use of alcohol, according to a new report.

The World Health Organization report, released last Friday, found that more than 75 per cent of those killed were men. Of those deaths due to alcohol, 28 per cent were caused by injuries including traffic accidents, self-harm and violence, 21 per cent due to digestive disorders, 19 per cent to cardiovascular diseases and the remainder due to infectious diseases, cancers, mental disorders and other health conditions.

It's estimated that 237 million men and women suffer from alcohol use disorders worldwide with the highest prevalence among people in the European region and in high income countries. The harmful use of alcohol causes more than five per cent of the "global disease burden".

Releasing the report, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO, said "far too many people, their families and communities suffer the consequences of the harmful use of alcohol through violence, injuries, mental health problems and diseases like cancer and stroke".

“It’s time to step up action to prevent this serious threat to the development of healthy societies.”

An estimated 2.3 billion people around the world drink alcohol with the average daily consumption of people who do so, 33 grams of pure alcohol - roughly equivalent to two 150ml glasses of wine, a 750ml bottle of beer or two shots (40ml) of spirits.