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J Stud Alcohol. 2003 Sep;64(5):650-61.

Drunkenness among young people: a cross-national comparison.

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Research Department, Swiss Institute for the Prevention of Alcohol and Drug Problems, P.O. Box 870, CH-1001 Lausanne, Switzerland.



International studies show a rise in drunkenness among young people in recent years. In this study the number of drunkenness occasions among 15-year old students in 22 countries is reported. The cross-national association between drunkenness, on the one hand, and the frequency of alcohol intake and the preference for distilled spirits, on the other, is described. Variation between countries is examined on the basis of national characteristics, including national prevention policies.


Data on alcohol use were taken from the 1998 World Health Organization (WHO) collaborative, cross-national survey on Health Behaviour of School-Aged Children. The multinational representative sample consisted of 10,951 male and 11,451 female (drinking) students. County characteristics were derived from the WHO Global Alcohol Database. Hierarchical Generalized Linear Model was used to analyze the effects of country characteristics on individual drunkenness.


The lifetime prevalence of drunkenness was 57.1% for males and 50.4% for females. The number of drunkenness occasions showed a significant variation in the 22 countries. The correlation between drunkenness and preference for distilled spirits was positive in 21 countries and strong (Spearman's p > 0.40) in some eastern countries. Geographic location turned out to be an important country-level association with drunkenness and its predictors. Southern European countries showed moderate associations, whereas strong associations were found in Scandinavia, the Baltic countries and Russia.


Cultural differences in alcohol use exist, and frequency of alcohol intake and use of spirits influence drunkenness. Despite the potential influence of preventive policy measures on drunkenness, no preventive effect of the measures included in this study was found.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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