Binge drinking falls by 25% in Europe

A new report has found that binge drinking levels in Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean dropped by more than 25% between 2005 and 2016.

The Trends Report: Heavy Episodic Drinking was released today by the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking (IARD).

According to the IARD, binge drinking has declined by 18% or more in four out of six WHO regions between 2005 and 2016.

The study found that binge drinking among Europeans aged between 20- and 24-years-old fell by almost a quarter (23%) between 2005 and 2016. In 2005, almost half (44%) of all 20- to 24-year-olds were binge drinkers, however this has now dropped to 34% in 2016.

The report also reveals that 18% fewer people across Canada, the US, the Caribbean, and Central and South America were binge drinking in 2016, compared to 2005.

However, the IARD claims there is “much more work to be done to build on this progress and reverse the trend where binge drinking is on the increase”.

The study shows that binge drinking across the Western Pacific region grew 14% among 20- to 24-year-olds since 2005 and rose by 6% in South East Asia.

New research conducted by YouGov for IARD revealed that 51% of 12,000 adults across nine countries (Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Africa, Germany, France, the UK, Mexico, and the US) believe that heavy episodic drinking (HED) has increased in their country over the last 10 years.

More than half (58%) of adults in Australia believe that binge drinking has increased over the past decade, but the IARD says that data shows it has dropped by 13% among those aged over 14 years between 2004 and 2016.

The IARD said the ‘whole-of-society’ approach, wherein different actors from public, private, and civil society sectors work together in partnership to address risky drinking behaviour, is “critically important” for reducing harmful alcohol consumption.

“The leading beer, wine, and spirits producers are committed to a whole-of-society approach to better understand what drives HED in each community, and to seek ways to use this knowledge to craft effective interventions to prevent it,” the report said.

The new study comes just months after IARD’s Trends: Underage Drinking report, which found that rates of underage drinking around the world are declining.

The report analysed drinking habits in 63 countries and found that underage consumption declined in 44 countries, including Spain, Australia and the US.

‘Greatly encouraging’

Trade body Spirits Europe said that these figures were “greatly encouraging” as underage drinking and HED are accurate indicators to measure alcohol-related harm.

“More and more people are drinking responsibly across the world, and we are particularly pleased by the clear reduction in heavy episodic drinking in Europe,” said Ulrich Adam, director general of Spirits Europe.

“This report confirms data from the World Health Organization and other sources, and it shows that we are moving in the right direction.

“The spirits sector is proud of the contribution we are making in partnership with our public and private stakeholders through our responsible drinking campaigns. We will continue to invest in this area to help accelerate further progress.”

Spirits Europe is calling for the re-establishment of the European Alcohol and Health Forum (EAHF), which was founded in 2007 but became defunct in 2015.

The EAHF provided a platform for both public health NGOs and alcohol sector groups to discuss issues, propose best practice, and share experiences to form sensible alcohol policy approaches.

“During the last consultative meeting in 2018, there was unanimous support to re-start the work of the forum,” added Adam.

“The fact that today’s report underlines the importance of work done in partnership to help reduce alcohol-related harm further provides a very valid reason for the incoming health commissioner to do so.”

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