Professor: Alcohol consumption could start to decline
Consumption of alcohol will go down in Finland, predicts Professor Jussi Kauhanen of the University of Kuopio.
However, Kauhanen is not absolutely sure if Finland has reached its peak in consumption yet, or if it might increase before declining again.
Kauhanen heads the FinDrink study, which is part of the research programme on intoxicants and addiction of the Academy of Finland. The aim of the study is to get a clearer picture of what the significance, both good and bad, of the use of alcohol in Finland is. The researchers also hope to find new information about the drinking habits of older people as well.
His assessment is based on developments in certain other European countries, whose trends Finland tends to follow.
The French, Germans, Spanish, and Danes are already drinking less, and Professor Kauhanen expects that there will be a similar trend in Finland as the average age of the population declines.
Since the sharp reduction in the tax on alcohol enacted in 2004, per capita consumption in Finland has varied between 10.2 and 10.5 litres of alcohol a year. This year, the tax was raised again, and a new increase is scheduled for next year.
Economic factors influence consumption rates. In lean years consumption declines. Professor Kauhanen points out that although the economic trend has been positive for more than a decade, drinking has not spiralled out of control. Instead, it has balanced out somewhat.
The most important factors in fluctuations in consumption are cultural, and stem from changes in attitude. There is an increasing tendency to look askance at excessive drinking, and long lunches and morning hangovers do not sit well at today’s workplaces.
Alcohol consumption increased significantly in the early 1970s, and again in the late 1980s. Consumption declined in the early 1990s, when Finland was hit by a severe recession.
Kauhanen says that the proportion of the population who do not drink at all has started to rise again, and binge drinking has not increased in recent years. He admits, however, that the sudden drop in prices in 2004 had a severe impact on certain groups of the population.
Kauhanen notes that the members of the postwar baby boom generation have been drinking since the 1960s, and some of them are still drinking, and they account for a big group in the statistics.
“One can always hope that people will wise up”, says Esa Österberg, a researcher at the National Research and Development Centre for Welfare and Health (STAKES), commenting on Kauhanen’s assessments.
However, he also feels that the fresh tax increase and a possible deepening recession could stop the increase in alcohol consumption in the coming years.
Previously in HS International Edition:
New Year brings an end to bulk beer discounts; alcohol taxes raised across the board (2.1.2008)
Alcohol tax going up next year (19.11.2008)
Sales of alcohol down by 3% in year to June (12.9.2008)
Finnish alcohol consumption heads upwards again (5.3.2008)