Social Climate Tech News

Tue 25 2024

Why Europeans Remain Loyal to Their Wine, Beer, and Spirits

by bernt & torsten

Data reveal that cultural habits are deeply ingrained in European countries when it comes to their drinking preferences. Whether it’s the French enjoying wine, the Germans favoring beer, or the Baltic nations indulging in spirits, these traditional drinking habits persist over time. Researchers have studied drinking patterns across Europe from 2000 to 2019, finding no significant changes in the preferred types of alcoholic beverages, prevalence of drinking, or behaviors like binge drinking.

Cultural factors such as traditional beverage preferences, social norms around drinking, and historical consumption patterns play significant roles in maintaining these stable drinking habits. For example, wine has been a staple in Mediterranean countries for centuries, while beer has deep historical roots in central European countries.

Published findings in the journal Addiction show an analysis of drinking patterns in EU countries, as well as Iceland, Norway, and Ukraine for the years 2000, 2010, 2015, and 2019. The team used data from the WHO global monitoring system on alcohol and health, which includes figures from official records around sales, taxation, and production, along with country-level surveys. Measures of alcohol-related harms were also examined.

The analysis identified six clusters of alcohol drinking patterns in Europe in 2019. One cluster focused on wine-drinking countries like France, Greece, and Sweden. Another gathered countries with high beer consumption, low spirits consumption, and high tourist consumption, including Austria, Denmark, and Germany. Croatia, Hungary, and Slovakia formed a cluster with the highest beer consumption, frequent binge drinking, and high spirits consumption. Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Cyprus emerged as a cluster with the highest prevalence of non-drinkers but regular high spirits consumption. The Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania were noted for high spirits and beer consumption but low levels of binge drinking. The final cluster, including Finland, Iceland, Ireland, and Malta, had the highest prevalence of drinkers and binge drinking.

Even though the UK was not part of the study, data suggests it would fall into the same cluster as Germany. When the researchers looked at data from 2000, 2010, and 2015, they found the same six clusters, with an additional cluster in 2000 representing countries with low general alcohol consumption, like Greece, Norway, Slovenia, and Sweden. Over the entire study period, 20 out of 30 countries remained in the same cluster, while the few that switched had been in the low-alcohol consumption cluster that later disappeared.

The study highlighted that wine-drinking countries had the lowest rates of alcohol-related deaths and the fewest years of healthy life lost in 2019. Conversely, the Baltic cluster, with high spirits consumption, had the highest rates of alcohol-related deaths, experiencing 90 more such deaths per 100,000 people than the wine-drinking countries.

These results stand in contrast to studies suggesting changes in drinking behavior in individual countries, revealing that in reality, not a lot has changed. The study underscores that alcohol is an integral part of European life and culture, which does not change quickly. However, to reduce the rate of alcohol-related diseases, injuries, and deaths, it is crucial to decrease alcohol consumption while respecting cultural contexts. Increasing life expectancy by reducing alcohol-related deaths is an important public health goal, necessitating thoughtful and culturally sensitive approaches.