Twenty per cent of young men are problem drinkers
Absenteeism, dependency, and problems in human relationships surprisingly common
One in five young Finnish men below the age of 35 have drunk at some point so much that they have met the criteria of a substance abuse disorder, which means that their use of alcohol has caused problems or a dependence.
The alarming information is based on a recent study conducted by the National Public Health Institute (KTL).
The purpose of the study was to complement an extensive report entitled Terveys 2000 (”Health 2000”) with interviews of young adults, a questionnaire, and a neuropsychological evaluation, involving a total of around 2,000 young adult participants.
The most recent interviews were made in 2005, and the National Public Health Institute plans to continue the study next year.
As both the use of alcohol and the related problems have increased markedly since 2005, one could expect that the number of substance abuse disorders is not declining.
Such disorders were far from rare even at the time of the study, at which point 14 per cent of all 20-to-35-year-olds met the criteria. In other words, one in seven young Finnish adults were problem drinkers.
Most of the problem drinkers were men: some 8.4 per cent of male respondents and 3.4 per cent of female respondents met the criteria.
Heavy binge drinking is not sufficient to cross the abuse threshold, which requires a long-term abuse of alcohol.
According to this study, the concept of substance abuse disorder means excessive alcohol consumption involving work absenteeism, problems in human relations, and drunk driving.
Physical addiction means a condition of being unable to manage without alcohol despite a desire to do so.
”Even those who did not meet the criteria of substance abuse seemed to use alcohol quite a lot”, reminds Jaana Suvisaari, one of the researchers at the National Public Health Institute.
The life of young Finnish adults looks rather wet, according to the study.
”Sometimes the use of alcohol is uncontrolled around the age of 20, but the situation will be brought under control with increasing age”, Suvisaari estimates.
”Alcohol consumption comes in waves”, explains Professor Hannu Alho from the University of Helsinki and the National Public Health Institute.
Young adults who drink heavily in their 20s usually cut back on drinking as they get older. Most of them begin to use alcohol only moderately, but some continue at the same pace, Aho reports.
This is why the overall consumption remains the same, even though some heavy users lower their consumption.
Another consumption peak appears to occur near retirement age. The fact confirms the image of the so-called baby boomers who have been labeled as ”a wet generation”, using alcohol more than did their parents.
Some baby boomers have already retired, while some still continue working.
Another recent KTL study indicates further that most alcohol-related problems tend to accumulate in the age group of 40-to-49-year-old men.
According to this study, some 8.5 per cent of men drink so much that they get considerable negative consequences. The number of problems in the groups of divorced and unemployed individuals are nearly equal.
Unemployment is a factor that also explains substance abuse in the group of under 35-year-olds.
”25 per cent of unemployed youths and five per cent of employed ones suffered from a substance use disorder”, Suvisaari reports.
”A low education level is another distinct risk factor”, she adds.
The two risk factors together create a new risk factor: a danger of becoming marginalised.
FACTFILE: Many mental problems among the young
According to a survey conducted by the National Public Health Institute, young adults have experienced many kinds of mental disorders before they turn 35.
The most common ailment for men was a substance abuse disorder, while women suffered from depression. Moreover, the women had faced depression slightly more often than the men had struggled with the substance abuse.
Even bipolar disorder, previously known as manic depression, was fairly common.
As accurate research findings as these are not available relating to older adults. The National Public Health Institute has stated that some 12 per cent of men have experienced harmful alcohol abuse while eight per cent have struggled with alcohol addiction. The corresponding figures for women are 3.7 and 2.9 per cent.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Statistics Finland: Alcohol kills increasing numbers of working-age Finns (5.12.2008)
National Public Health Institute (KTL)