Loy, J. K., Seitz, N.-N., Bye, E. K., Raitasalo, K., Soellner, R., Törrönen, J., Kraus, L.

Trends in alcohol consumption among adolescents in Europe: Do changes occur in concert?

2021

Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 228, 109020. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2021.109020

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https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0376871621005159

Objective
The present paper extends the scope of testing Skog’s theory on the ‘collectivity of drinking culture’ to adolescent alcohol use in 26 European countries. The aim was to 1) examine whether changes in adolescent alcohol use are consistent across different consumption levels, and 2) explore whether trends in heavy and light drinkers diverged or converged.

Method
Data came from six waves of the cross-sectional European School Survey Project on Alcohol and other Drugs (ESPAD) between 1999 and 2019. The sample consisted of n = 452,935 students aged 15–16 years. Trends in alcohol volume across consumption levels including abstainers were estimated by quantile regression models (50th, 80th, 90th and 95th percentile). Countries were classified according to trends showing (soft/hard) collectivity or (soft/hard) polarisation. Trends in heavy drinkers were compared with the population trend.

Results
Trends in alcohol consumption at different levels across 26 European countries in the period 1999–2019 were not homogeneous. Collective changes were found in 15 (14 soft/1 hard), and polarised trends in 11 countries (5 soft/6 hard). Collectivity was generally associated with a declining trend. In 18 countries, trends in heavy and light drinkers diverged.

Conclusion
Accepting some variation in the strength of changes across consumption levels, changes in many European countries occurred in the same direction. Yet, diverging trends at different consumption levels in most countries indicate a less beneficial change in heavy compared with light drinkers, implying that in addition to universal population-level strategies, intervention strategies targeting specific risk groups are needed to prevent alcohol-related harm.

 

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