The Decline of Heavy Episodic Drinking in Adolescents in Finland, Norway and Sweden

Around the world, there has been a decline in heavy drinking among adolescents.

In this study, researchers compared these trends in Finland, Norway and Sweden using information from the ESPAD survey- a project that has data on substance use among 15-16 year old students throughout Europe.

They analysed results from 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015, particularly looking at self reported heavy episodic drinking in the past 30 days.

Results from the study found that:

  • In all three countries, perceived access to alcohol, truancy and daily smoking decreased significantly between 1999 and 2015
  • Risk perceptions, parental control and participation in sports increased 
  • The decline in daily smoking and perceived access to alcohol were positively associated with the decline in heavy episodic drinking in all three countries. 
  • The increase in parental control negatively associated with the decline in heavy episodic drinking in all three countries. 

Although several factors have clearly impacted adolescent heavy episodic drinking patterns over the years, the researchers caution that around half of these notable trends remain unexplained.

The researchers propose several mechanisms of change in alcohol consumption in general and youth drinking in particular.

Raitasalo, K., Kraus, L., Bye, E. K., Karlsson, P., Tigerstedt, C., Törrönen, J., & Raninen, J. (2020). Similar countries, similar factors? Studying the decline of heavy episodic drinking in adolescents in Finland, Norway and Sweden. Addiction.