Alcohol Abuse Rates in European Countries

Alcohol Abuse Rates in European CountriesAccording to the World Health Organization (WHO) alcohol abuse is an international issue that yields the following problems:

  • Europe has the highest proportion in the world of ill health and premature death due to alcohol
  • This high level of harm hides the great inequality between health problems in eastern and western Europe, particularly for injury deaths
  • The volume of lifetime alcohol use, the frequency of drinking and the amount drunk per occasion increases the risk of health and social harm
  • The risk of death from a chronic alcohol-related condition increases with consumption levels
  • The European Union is the heaviest-drinking region in the world, with over one fifth of the European population aged 15 years and above reporting heavy episodic drinking at least once a week

With such significant statistics, the European countries merit their own statistical analysis group.

The European Information System on Alcohol and Health (EISAH)

EISAH provides access to a wide range of alcohol-related health statistics. This joint project of the European Commission, WHO headquarters and WHO/Europe is part of the Global Information System on Alcohol and Health (GISAH). EISAH is an essential tool for assessing and monitoring the trends as related to alcohol consumption, alcohol-related harm and policy responses in countries.

Alcohol Consumption in Europe versus the US

The Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey is a well-respected tool that focuses on substance abuse trends for in 8th, 10th and 12th graders. This survey is conducted annually. Additionally, the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) is a survey targeted towards 15 to 16 year-old students in 26 European countries. In a comparison of the two different surveys focusing on 10th graders, the analysis presented results include the following:

  • In the 1995 MTF survey, 39 percent of 10th graders reported that they had a drink in the past 30 days, which is substantially fewer than the percentage of adolescents that are current drinkers in many European countries
  • Consuming five or more drinks in a row is one measure of heavy episodic or binge drinking that is frequently used. This style of drinking is associated with increased risks of problems including DUI, fighting, truancy and involvement in criminal activities such as theft, burglary and assault.
  • The prevalence of binge drinking from the ESPAD and MTF surveys shows that US adolescents show lower prevalence rates for drinking five or more drinks in a row than most European countries

However, the European Comparative Alcohol Study found that European nations have fewer alcohol-related social problems, including lower death rates due to drinking.

European Attitudes to Alcohol

With the large numbers of alcohol consumption in European countries, some people wonder how these consumption levels do not result in significant social problems. Many think that alcohol is a more accepted part of the culture, because Americans see alcohol as an evil, forbidden item that teens should avoid. Many households have parents who do not drink, while other households have parents that consistently harbor negative feelings about alcohol. Often parents use fear tactics to urge their children not to drink.

In Europe, the attitudes towards alcohol are less alarming. Being able to consume small amounts of alcohol at a family meal is common. Being permitted to drink alcohol under adult supervision is also permitted.

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