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Brussels, 21 April 2010

Eurobarometer: an overwhelming majority of Europeans support public policies aimed at reducing alcohol-related harm

Alcohol consumption in the European Union is at a similar level to four years ago, a Eurobarometer survey shows. Three out of four respondents said they consume alcoholic drinks up to three times a week. Young people aged 15-24 years are more likely than older age groups to have five or more drinks at a time, and frequent binge drinking is widespread across the EU. Awareness of specific health risks varies. There is high awareness that harmful consumption is linked to liver diseases but low awareness that it also causes cancer. Since 2006, the European Commission has worked with national authorities, NGOs and industry to reduce alcohol related harm

The Special Eurobarometer survey on alcohol was carried out in October 2009 with 27 000 respondents.

Questions on drinking patterns and attitudes towards alcohol policies monitored trends from a similar survey in 2006. Awareness of alcohol-related risks was measured for the first time in this type of survey across the EU.

Key findings:

Wide support for measures to reduce alcohol-related harm:

Europeans widely support public policies aimed at reducing alcohol-related harm. A clear majority (89% in favour) supports an 18-year age limit for selling and serving alcoholic beverages across the EU. There is also strong endorsement for action against drink-driving, such as random checks by the police (83% in favour) and a lowered blood alcohol limit for young drivers (73% in favour).

Binge drinking widespread across the EU:

Binge drinking affects all ages but young people aged 15-24 years are the most likely to binge drink every week (where "binge drinking" is defined as five drinks or more on any one occasion). This puts younger people at a greater risk of adverse effects related to intoxication, such as accidental injuries, fights and violence.

Binge drinking is not confined to any particular region. Percentages above the EU average (29%) are found in Ireland, Romania, Germany and Austria, followed by the UK, Spain, Greece and Italy.

Daily drinking among the 55+ suggests chronic disease risk in an ageing population:

Those aged 55 years or more are far more likely than young people to drink daily. Regular drinking among older age groups could lead to an increased risk of chronic diseases in an ageing population.

Drivers play down risks of alcohol:

The majority of Europeans consider driving under the influence of alcohol to be risky but 14% would drive after more than two drinks in two hours. Such an amount would result in a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit in most EU countries. More than half (62%) consider that one should not drive after two drinks in two hours. A considerable proportion (15%) thinks that not drinking at all if you intend to drive is the safest option.


The European Commission launched the first EU Strategy on alcohol in 2006. The Strategy identifies priorities for action at EU and national levels, notably: to protect young people and children, reduce injuries and deaths from alcohol-related road accidents, prevent harm among adults and reduce negative impacts at work.

For more information:

Special Eurobarometer 331 "EU citizens’ attitudes towards alcohol"

First Progress Report on the implementation of the EU Alcohol Strategy, 2009

Further info on EU alcohol policy and action

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