Why Danes are still the biggest drinkers in Scandinavia

While Danes were once in the vanguard of Europe's drinking statistics, the country’s alcohol consumption is now closer to that of its peers.

Why Danes are still the biggest drinkers in Scandinavia
File photo: Maria Albrechtsen Mortensen/Ritzau Scanpix

Over the past ten years, Denmark has seen one of the largest drops in alcohol consumption amongst OECD countries, from 12.1 litres of pure alcohol annually per adult (aged 16 and over) in 2007, to 9.1 litres in 2017.

As such, the Scandinavian country is now not far from the average consumption in the OECD countries of 8.9 litres, according to a new OECD report comparing health conditions in its 36 member states.

People in Denmark still pour considerably more beer, wine and spirits into their glasses than their Nordic counterparts, however.

Consumption per person is 6 litres in Norway, 7.1 in Sweden and 8.4 in Finland, the OECD report states.

“(Alcohol) consumption in Denmark is still too high. My concern is particularly for young people, who still have a high consumption,” said Karin Friis Bach, chairperson for the health committee of Danish Regions, the interest organization for Denmark’s five regional health authorities.

A study in June this year by Danish research institute Vidensråd for Forebyggelse (Knowledge Council for Prevention) showed that young people in Denmark start drinking alcohol at an earlier age than in most other European countries. They also drink far more and with the aim of getting drunk, researchers found.

“For young people at school up to 9th grade, consumption has fallen over many years. The problem arises when young people switch to secondary education, where alcohol consumption increases dramatically,” said Professor Janne Tolstrup of the National Institute for Public Health at the University of Southern Denmark, the author of the report.

Danish Regions has called for parliament to impose an age limit of 18 for the purchase of all alcohol, including beer and wine, as in the rest of the Nordic countries. Current rules allow people as young as 16 to buy alcoholic drinks with an alcohol percentage of below 16.5 percent.

“It is disappointed that Denmark is the only country in the Nordic region which still allows the sale of alcopops, breezers, beer and wine to 16-year-olds, Bach said.

The interest organization also wants a minimum price per alcoholic item.

“Hard liquor in particular has become very cheap. It's a problem that young people are drinking cheap vodka for 70 kroner per bottle instead of beer at parties,” Bach said.

READ ALSO: Fewer young Danes binge drink, report finds

Member comments

  1. I think that the reason the government doesnt tackle the drinking problem, is because they make a lot of taxes from it ..!In my 65 years , I have seen so many lives ruined by drinking ..!!!I

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Danish 15-year-olds drink most alcohol in Europe

Danish 15-year-olds drink more frequently and are more likely to have been drunk than those from any other country in Europe, according to a new study by the World Health Organisation.

A reveller at the Roskilde Festival in 2014. Photo: David Leth Williams/Ritzau Scanpix
According to the report, 82 percent of Danish 15-year-olds have tried alcohol, compared to 59 percent on average over Europe as a whole. 
At the same time, 65 percent of Danish 15-year-olds said they had drunk alcohol in the preceding month, and 42 percent said they had been drunk at least once. That is roughly twice as many as on average in Europe. 
The study, which is carried out every fifth year, surveys 227,000 European school pupils aged, 11, 13, and 15. 
“The worrying story is that we had had some improvement in the alcohol data, but over the last four years, we have seen some tendencies in the wrong direction and that is probably why we are staying in the very bad end,” said Mette Rasmussen, who led the Danish part of the project at Denmark's National Institute of Public Health. 
“We have a social alcohol drinking culture in Denmark. Alcohol is a key thing in being together, when we meet with friends and go to parties, and that actually goes for both adults and adolescents,” she said. “At the same time we drink a lot, we binge drink.” 
She said that Denmark was also unusual in Europe for allowing those as young as 16 to buy alcohol, and in having relatively low prices for alcohol, compared to its Nordic neighbours at least. 
The Danish Institute of Public Health drew attention to the study, in a press release posted to its website.