How Danes drink

Today I have been reading about drinking patterns in Denmark. The Danish Health Authority distinguishes between a low risk limit at 14 units per week for men and 7 for women and a high risk limit at 21 units per week for men and 14 for women. In other words, if you drink 21 units or more, there is a high risk that you will experience damaging consequences.

According to a recent OECD report, Denmark is no longer at the very top of European countries in terms of alcohol consumption. It is now roughly a fifth of the population, which drinks more than the low risk limit. Surprisingly, it is among young men between 16 – 24 years that the biggest decrease in alcohol consumption has been identified. Whereas in 2010, 38,3% drank more than the low risk limit, it is now only 28,4%. The share of Danes who drink more than the high risk limit has also gone down from 10,6% to 8,5%.

In average, Danes drink 9,4 liters of alcohol per year, which is equivalent to 11-12 units per week. These numbers are based on the total liters of alcohol that is being sold in Denmark. And that is apparently not a completely reliable source of information because Danes also purchase alcohol abroad. Still, according to a researcher at the National Institute of Public Health, a rule of thumb is that 10-20 percent of the population drink 70-80 percent of all the alcohol that is consumed in Denmark.

There are two aspects of Danish drinking patterns where we stand out. First, only about 5% of the Danish population do not drink at all. Even in countries where the average consumption of alcohol is much higher than in Denmark, the percentage of inhabitants, who do not drink is much higher. And, second, Danish youth are at the very top in terms of alcohol consumption. According to a recent survey about the drinking pattern of 15-16 year old teenagers, 92% responded that they had tried to drink alcohol. The European average is around 80% for that age group. And if you ask who many of the 15-16 have consumed alcohol within the last 30 days, 72% respond positively.

Research done at the National Institute of Public Health shows that the youth’s drinking patterns are intimately connected to the ways that adult consume alcohol. When the average national consumption of alcohol is high, the percentage of young people between 15-16 in that country having already tried to drink alcohol is equally high. 

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