Alcoholic beverages are popular throughout Europe. The drinking patterns and the type of drink (wine, beer, and spirits) that is predominantly preferred may vary from country to country, but in all EU-member states alcohol consumption is substantial. In Figure 1 the litres of pure alcohol consumed per capita (total population) of 23 EU-members states over the years 1997-2003 are presented. Information from Lithuania and Slovenia is missing.
Figure 1: Consumed litres of pure alcohol per capita (1997-2003). Source: World Advertising Research Centre
Although drinking is popular in all EU-member states, there are considerable differences. In countries like Sweden and Malta the alcohol consumption per capita is only one third of that of Luxemburg, the Czech Republic and Hungary. When interpreting the results one has to realize that the actual consumption in Luxemburg is probably lower than mentioned in Figure 1. The amount of alcohol consumed is based on sales. Alcoholic beverages are relatively cheap in Luxemburg and Luxemburg is a small country. For this reason it is very attractive for inhabitants of neighbouring countries that live close to the border to buy spirits in Luxemburg and consume them in their own country. In Latvia, Estonia, Hungary, Finland, Cyprus, and the U.K there has been an increase in alcohol consumption over the years and in Germany, Portugal, France, Greece and Italy there is a downward trend. In the other countries the alcohol consumption has remained more or less the same over the years.
In some countries people tend to drink a regular amount of alcohol every day whereas in other countries people drink occasionally, but when they drink, they drink quite a lot. Figure 2 presents the self reported number of days in the past month in which alcohol was consumed in the 15 old EU member states.
Figure 2: Self reported number of days in the past month in which alcohol was consumed. Source: Health, Food and Alcohol and Safety, European Opinion Research Group EEIG, special Euro barometer, European Commission (December, 2003)
In most of the southern wine producing countries like Spain, Italy and Portugal people tend to drink daily and in the northern countries (Finland and Sweden) people tend to drink only at the weekend. Considerably more men (72.9%) than women (49.9%) say that they have consumed alcohol in the past month. When the question is put: "How many times in the past month have you consumed the equivalent of one bottle of wine, five pints/bottles of beer, or five measures of spirits on one drinking occasion?", the results are quite different (see Figure 3).
Figure 3: Self reported number of times the equivalent of one bottle of wine or five pints/bottles of beer or five measures of spirits on one drinking occasion was consumed in the past month. Source: Health, Food and Alcohol and Safety, European Opinion Research Group EEIG, special Euro barometer, European Commission (December, 2003)
Apparently in Finland people tend not to drink very often, but when they do, they drink a lot. Whereas in Italy quite a few people drink every day, but excessive drinking during one occasion is not common.