Underage drinking falls across Europe

31st March, 2021 by Owen Bellwood

Alcohol consumption among 15- to 16-year-olds in Europe declined by 22% in 2019, according to a new report.

According to a survey from Spirits Europe, underage drinking has dropped across the bloc

Spirits Europe published its latest European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) report this week. The survey collected anonymous responses from 100,000 students across 35 European countries in spring and autumn 2019.

The ESPAD report uncovered a ‘significant decrease’ in underage drinking in the European Union (EU), with levels below that of 2003.

Across the EU and Norway, overall alcohol consumption fell by 22% and declined in nearly all member states. Spirits Europe reported declines in all countries except Hungary, when compared with 2007 levels.

The report found that heavy episodic drinking fell by 19%, however 37% of respondents reported consuming more than five drinks on a single occasion during the past month.

The ESPAD also found that 86% of respondents reported never being drunk during the past month – a 23% increase on the EU average since 2003.

Ulrich Adam, director general of Spirits Europe, said: “The latest ESPAD report data is confirming the positive trends we have been seeing and working towards throughout recent years.

“We were pleased to see that alcohol consumption among school students was the lowest since it peaked in 2003. Also, 86% of the respondents said they had not been drunk in the past month – this is a significant achievement which we want and need to build on further.

“No level of underage drinking is acceptable and we will remain committed to doing all we can to eradicate it.”

Despite the reduction in underage drinking, Spirits Europe found ‘notable differences’ between countries, and suggested that there would not be a ‘one-size-fits-all approach to address the issue of underage drinking across Europe’.

Adam added: “The ESPAD survey is extremely comprehensive but concluded before the onset of the Covid pandemic. However, we are reassured that these positive trends continued throughout 2020. They show that we are moving in the right direction.

“The spirits sector is proud of the commitment and contribution we are making in partnership with public and private stakeholders through our responsible drinking campaigns. We will continue to invest in this area to help accelerate further progress.”

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