14th Aug 2022

Binge drinking trend hits European youth

  • Teenage binge drinking is increasing all over Europe, the study says (Photo: European Commission)

Binge drinking - drinking for the sake of getting drunk - is reaching alarming levels among European teenagers, a major new study has revealed.

"The phenomenon of binge drinking among European youth is about to be established all over the continent," one of the report's authors, Peter Anderson, told Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet in Geneva.

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"All signs show that the trend will continue," he said.

The report, carried out by the London Institute of Alcohol Studies on behalf of the European Commission, is part of research that will underlie a commission communication on alcohol policy, due in the latter half of 2006.

The study looked at trends across the EU.

In Estonia, the number of 15-16 year-old girls that binge drink at least three times a month tripled between 1995 and 2003, the study found.

In Germany, almost a fifth of teenagers aged 12-17 have been "blind drunk" or drunk to the point of losing consciousness during the last month.

The report explains that, while total alcohol consumption per capita in Europe is decreasing, drinking patterns among teenagers show the opposite trend.

Teenagers, and in particular young girls, across the whole bloc drink large amounts of alcohol several times a month, and the average age for the first drink has fallen from 15 years for the parent generation to 11.8 years for the teenagers of today.

While southern Europeans traditionally have incorporated drinking with eating and found open drunkenness embarrassing, the current trend is that young people in the south are adopting a Northern European-type tradition of drinking with the simple intention of getting drunk.

The new study, to be published later this spring, compares member states' alcohol consumption patterns and is the largest of its sort made in the EU.

Member states impose tougher rules

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Europeans drink twice as much as people on other continents, with an alcohol-related annual death toll of over 600,000.

Alcohol is the third biggest killer after smoking and high blood pressure, commission statistics state.

The commission in 2003 called for harmonising EU member states' approach to the damage caused by alcohol.

Despite opposition from the drinks industry and alcohol-producing countries, the commission is expected to later this year recommend a rise in member states' taxes on alcohol, including wine and beer.

The commission does however not have legislative powers in public health matters.

The stricter policy proposed by Brussels is seen as a response to insufficient self-regulation on the part of alcohol producers.

Other expected proposals include more information about the amount of alcohol and calories in drinks, especially in those popular among young people, as well as restrictions on their advertising.

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