Finnish alcohol consumption tops list of Nordic countries
The Finns drink more alcohol per capita than any of the other nationalities in the Nordic region.
According to a survey carried out by the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), Finland has for the first time pushed ahead of Denmark, which had previously enjoyed the questionable honour of being the Nordic country with the highest annual per capita consumption.
Consumption adjusted to litres of pure alcohol exceeded ten litres per head in Finland (10.4 litres in 2008, down fractionally from the 10.5 recorded in 2007, but still sharply higher than the 8.8 litres of 1995), while the figure remained below 10 litres in all the other Nordic countries.
Norway and Iceland have the lowest annual consumption, at rather more than six litres per capita.
In broader European terms, aggregate consumption of alcohol in Finland is in the upper part of the mid-range.
Finns drink more or less the same amount in absolute terms as the French, whilst the Czechs, Irish, and Hungarians all drink rather more.
Nevertheless, daily use of alcohol remains relatively rare in Finland, and people turn instead to booze at the weekends. Drinking to get drunk and binge-drinking are both commonplace.
Consumption has been on the rise in particular among women and pensioners, while young people are drinking less.
According to the THL report, the growth in consumption has increased the ill-effects of drinking.
This has been manifested particularly in a sharp rise in alcohol-related deaths, with alcohol-related diseases and accidental alcohol poisoning becoming a very significant cause of death among working-age men and women.
Equally, other social and health-related adverse effects have grown in recent years, most strikingly after the sharp tax cuts on alcohol introduced in 2004.
The current economic downturn and the decline in citizens' purchasing power and increasing unemployment could nevertheless change matters and send consumption downwards once again, believes the National Institute for Health and Welfare.
Furthermore, the increased hazards associated with drinking have produced a more negative mindset with regard to alcohol policy in Finland.
Recently political decision-makers have taken a stronger line on restrictions, for example in the shortening of opening hours for retail sales and the banning of bulk discounts on supermarket beers.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Parliament debates restrictions on alcohol advertising (9.12.2008)
Statistics Finland: Alcohol kills increasing numbers of working-age Finns (5.12.2008)
Rise in alcohol tax leads to surge in personal imports from Estonia (22.8.2008)
More teenagers stay sober, but binge drinking more common among those who drink (4.5.2009)
Cirrhosis of the liver mortality increasing in Finland faster than elsewhere in Europe (4.5.2009)
Alcohol involved in one in three accidental deaths (25.3.2009)
New Year brings an end to bulk beer discounts; alcohol taxes raised across the board (2.1.2008)
Sales of alcohol reach new record (11.10.2007)
Yearbook of Alcohol and Drug Statistics 2008 (.pdf file)
National Institute for Health and Welfare