European champion in alcohol consumption

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Southern Europeans drink significantly less alcohol today than they did 40 years ago

Europeans drink by far the most alcohol worldwide. However, the development of the last few decades has been very different in the individual European countries. In many southern European countries, for example, there was a significant decline in alcohol consumption, whereas, for example, a further increase was observed in Eastern Europe.

While alcohol consumption in Germany has remained relatively constant since the 1970s, the southern European countries recorded a significant decline, reported Professor Dr. Jürgen Rehm from the Institute for Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy at the Technical University of Dresden on Tuesday in Berlin. As a representative of the "Initiative for Active Alcohol Therapy" (AktivA), Rehm presents a report on the initiative on alcohol consumption in Germany at an event on the occasion of the World Drug Day. The expert also provides an insight into international development based on data from the World Health Organization (WHO) of alcohol consumption.

Alcohol consumption in southern Europe significantly reduced since 1970 The figures presented clearly show that Europeans have been at the top in terms of alcohol consumption worldwide for years. On average, every European over 15 years of age drank around 12.5 liters of pure alcohol in 2009, reports Prof. Rehm. This means that "European alcohol consumption is more than twice as high as global", the news agency "dpa" quoted the statement by the psychologist at the Technical University of Dresden. According to Prof. Rehm, alcohol consumption in Germany was slightly above the European average with an average of 12.9 liters per year. Alcohol consumption in Germany has been roughly on the same level for decades. However, the situation is different in southern Europe, where alcohol consumption has been declining for years. According to Prof. Rehm, "the entire southern European countries have at least halved their alcohol consumption in the past 30 to 40 years." For example, in 1970 the Italians drank 19 liters of alcohol a year, in 2009 it was only seven liters, the expert reported . The development was comparable in Spain, Portugal and France, Rehm continued. According to the psychologist at the TU Dresden, the main causes of this decline in alcohol consumption were above all the ever shorter lunch breaks (siesta) and the higher alcohol prices.

Increasing alcohol consumption in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia While alcohol consumption in Southern Europe is declining, according to the expert in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, an opposite trend can be observed. This also applies to Great Britain and Ireland, where more people have been drinking for several years, reports Rehm. In Great Britain, for example, alcohol consumption rose from around seven liters in 1970 to almost eleven liters in 2009. All in all, relatively a lot is regularly drunk in Europe, but the drinking patterns observed here are not as problematic as in other regions of the world, "where the majority of all drinking opportunities lead to intoxication," said Prof. Dr. Jürgen Rehm. Such a drinking because of the intoxication brings with it a particularly high risk of alcohol dependency, whereas drinking for pleasure, without subsequent intoxication, is less risky. In this context, the so-called binge drinking has to be assessed critically, which has taken on worrying proportions among German adolescents in recent years. In addition to the acute health risks, such as alcohol poisoning, there is also an increased risk of alcohol dependence.

Millions of Germans dependent on alcohol At a symposium for active alcohol therapy in the Charité in Berlin, Prof. Rehm will present the comprehensive results of the "Alcohol Comparator Report 2012" today (June 26). As reported by the "Initiative for Active Alcohol Therapy", the need for action should also be emphasized. Because alcohol diseases in adults have long ceased to be a marginal problem for society. Around “1.3 million Germans are alcohol-dependent, 9.5 million consume alcohol in a risky way,” reports AktivA on its own website. According to the initiative, improved prevention and awareness-raising among risk groups should therefore be the primary goals of health policy. "Only an active and open handling of the disease allows society to find ways out of alcohol addiction", AktivA concluded. (fp)

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