Alcohol Abuse Rates in European Countries

Alcohol Abuse Rates in European CountriesMany European countries have high rates of binge drinking and alcohol-related accidents and problems; therefore, organizations are working to educate people about the dangers of drinking large amounts.

European Alcohol Consumption

More than one-fifth of Europeans report binge drinking (five or more drinks in a sitting) at least once a week according to the World Health Organization. In addition to immediate problems that result from binge drinking, such as impaired judgment, drinking large amounts of alcohol causes long-term health problems. Consequently Europeans are at a higher risk of accidents due to drinking as well as health and social problems that result from alcohol dependence.  Every year there are around 115,000 European deaths due to alcohol abuse according to a 2007 article in Alcohol and Alcoholism.

European Drinking Trends

Various drinking patterns are common in certain parts of central and eastern Europe, according to the Alcohol and Alcoholism article. The article focuses on cultural drinking trends for people age 15 and older in the following European countries: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. It then compares those trends to southern and western Europe, Russia and Ukraine.

Researchers identified three main drinking patterns for different areas of Europe. The following trends are revealed by the journal’s scientific research:

  • Mediterranean pattern (Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Slovenia and other former Yugoslavian countries) – strongly influenced by the Greek and Italian styles of drinking (traditional wine and fruit brandy countries). This includes almost daily alcohol consumption, wine with meals and no acceptance of public drunkenness.
  • Central European pattern (Czech Republic and Slovakia) – influenced by German style, primarily beer drinking. This is similar to the Mediterranean style including daily consumption and lack of acceptance of public drunkenness (the article notes that spirits consumption (fruit-based) in recent years has increased in Slovakia).
  • The Northern European pattern (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) – influenced by traditional vodka drinking cultures, which is a shorter tradition than the Mediterranean style. This includes non-daily drinking, irregular binge drinking episodes during weekends and festivals and acceptance of public drunkenness.

While a person’s decision to drink alcohol is an individual one, it is clear that cultural factors play a significant role. In countries where drinking trends tend toward binge drinking and public drunkenness is acceptable, there are higher rates of alcohol-related deaths and injuries. Education programs that emphasize the public health hazards of alcohol along with the social and personal problems caused by drinking are needed.

Comparing Drinking Rates across Europe

Eastern European countries had the highest drinking rates according to Alcohol and Alcoholism. The countries with the highest drinking levels include the following:

  • Moldova Republic
  • Lithuania
  • Latvia
  • Slovakia
  • Hungary
  • Russia
  • Ukraine
  • Romania
  • Ireland (example of western country with high drinking rate)

Countries with the lowest drinking rates were Nordic and Mediterranean countries. The following countries had lower alcohol consumption:

  • Malta
  • Iceland
  • Norway
  • Sweden
  • Bulgaria
  • Italy

Europe’s high rate of alcohol consumption asks for immediate attention from global health organizations.

Addressing Alcohol Abuse in Europe

Since alcohol consumption rates vary across European states, there is a greater need for education in countries with heavy consumption than in other areas. WHO wants to focus on education measures that have the highest impact on behavior.

WHO officials note they are making progress with education programs by using the same frameworks built to educate the public about non-communicable diseases and child and adolescent health. Many programs focus on the relationship between alcohol and injuries and violence.

In the U.S. some people have pointed to European styles of drinking as a possible model for American alcohol policies according to a report from the U.S. Department of Justice. Recent research on alcohol abuse levels in Europe, however, shows that rates of binge drinking and addiction are higher in some European countries than they are in the U.S. Consequently advocates do not recommend ending the minimum U.S. drinking age or teaching young people so-called responsible drinking strategies.

Need Help Finding Addiction Treatment for Alcohol Addiction?

Alcohol abuse and dependence rates are high in European countries. Cultural acceptance for drinking explains much of this high usage, and many government and health organizations are working to lower overall drinking rates. Groups such as WHO report progress toward the goal of changing beliefs about what happens when people drink large amounts of alcohol.

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