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Alcohol abuse blighting lives across the EU - 16/04/2008

The world's heaviest drinking region acts to put a stop to alcohol abuse as figures show disturbing trends.

When does a drink with friends turn into a dangerous binge? With 200 000 European deaths a year caused by alcohol abuse it seems the line between responsible and harmful drinking is still unclear for many. 

Under-age drinking and alcohol-related car accidents (a quarter of all crashes) are causing alarm throughout Europe. While countries try and turn the situation around at home, cross-border alcohol advertising and sales can undermine their efforts.

Young people are particularly vulnerable. One in four deaths of young men (aged 15-29) result from alcohol-related incidents and a recent survey shows 19% of 15-24 year olds drink at least five units of alcohol in a session.

As well as setting out a strategy to address the alcohol problem across Europe, the EU has set up the European alcohol and health forum (40 businesses and non-governmental organisations) to counter under-age drinking, raise awareness of the effects of alcohol abuse and push for responsible sales and advertising practices.

Speaking at the forum, health commissioner Vassiliou highlighted the social tragedy of alcohol abuse: "The inappropriate use of alcohol damages the health and destroys the education and employment perspectives of so many young men and women, and in many cases kills young people who should still have most of their lives before them".

The forum has set out 78 commitments including:

  • training shop assistants and bar tenders in how to deal with young people trying to buy alcohol illegally
  • making sure midwives tell women of the dangers of drinking while trying to conceive or pregnant
  • strengthening the role of self-help groups

The forum will also get scientific advice from a panel of experts and pool ideas and best practices, identifying areas where projects are needed and making sure they run efficiently.

Find out more on alcohol-related harm in Europe

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