Close Menu

Europeans continue historic drinking habits

Mediterranean countries continue to be the leaders in wine drinking and northern and central Europeans prefer a beer, according to a new study of alcohol trends in the region.

The study in scientific journal Addiction, found that spirits-drinking countries, including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Cyprus, had the highest average alcohol-attributable deaths and health harm.

But those who drink low levels of spirits and mainly moderate levels of wine had the lowest levels of alcohol-associated deaths, such as France, Italy, Greece, Portugal and Sweden.

The study also found that there was high levels of beer drinking in Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia. It also found that the highest lifetime abstinence countries were Ukraine, Bulgaria and Cyprus, which also had the lowest prevalence of drinkers — although those that did had high and regular consumptions of spirits.

Binge drinking

Countries with the highest prevalence of current and binge drinking including Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, and Malta.

Looking back almost 20 years, the same overall clusters were in place from 2000 to 2019, with two-thirds of the countries staying in the same cluster for all measurements.

Co-author Dr. Jürgen Rehm said: “Europe’s distinct drinking patterns seem to be deeply rooted in culture and are therefore difficult to change.”

The report concluded: “European drinking patterns appear to be clustered by level of beverage-specific consumption, with heavy episodic drinkers, current drinkers and lifetime abstainers being distinguishing factors between clusters.

“Despite the overall stability of the clusters over time, some countries shifted between drinking patterns from 2000 to 2019. Overall, patterns of drinking in the European Union seem to be stable and partly determined by geographical proximity.”

Mediterranean diet

The news appears to confirm the place of wine in the so-called “Mediterranean diet”, which is responsible for high life expectancy amongst southern Mediterranean countries.

Previously, scientists have said that the Mediterranean diet loses up to 23.5% of its protective effect if wine is removed. Traditionally, alongside the protective impact of red wine consumption, the diet includes fish, olive oil, and a focus on fresh ingredients rather than processed products.

It is believed the compounds found in the skin of grapes, polyphenols, which are a compound found in red wine as well as fruits, vegetables and other herbs and spices, work as anti-oxidants, preventing cardiovascular disease and even types of cancer.

In January, a new study was announced, called Should we remove wine from the Mediterranean diet?, and which forms the launching point for a European Research Council four-year study involving 10,000 Spaniards aged 50-75.

It will assess the impact of moderate wine consumption on issues such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

French Paradox

Alongside the Mediterranean diet, there is also the “French Paradox” — as revealed in this latest study — and originally highlighted in a famous 60 Minutes TV show by scientists Serge Renaud.

He initiated much of the work looking at the healthy benefits of red wine consumption and its ability to help prevent various heart diseases – something he attributed to growing up with his grandparents in Bordeaux.

He once said of his work: “If I hadn’t lived with my grandparents and great-grandparents on a vineyard near Bordeaux, perhaps this idea wouldn’t have occurred to me.

“When you see people reach the age of 80 or 90 years, who have been drinking small amounts of wine every day, you don’t believe wine in low doses is harmful.”

It looks like you're in Asia, would you like to be redirected to the Drinks Business Asia edition?

Yes, take me to the Asia edition No