During the POLPAN Seminar on October 15th, Dr. Jacek Moskalewicz (Institute of Psychiatry and Neurology, Warsaw) presented a talk entitled “Do Drinking Cultures in Europe Converge? Results of the Standardized European Alcohol Survey – RARHA SEAS”. The co-author of the presentation was Janusz Sierosławski (Institute of Psychiatry and Neurology).
Alcohol consumption is associated with a variety of health, social and economic problems which severely affect Europe – the largest per capita producer and consumer of alcohol beverages. Each year 120 thousand EU citizens die from alcohol-related harm while four million disability adjusted life years are lost due to alcohol consumption.
Therefore, continuous monitoring of alcohol consumption and related harm is of crucial importance from a public health perspective. To this end, a Standardized European Alcohol Survey – RARHA SEAS was elaborated within a EU Joint Action on Alcohol named Reducing Alcohol Related Harm (RARHA). In addition to monitoring health consequences of alcohol consumption, RARHA SEAS offers an unique opportunity to trace in a comparative manner changes in alcohol cultures which reflect a pace in cultural homogenization of Europe.
The RARHA SEAS survey was completed in nineteen European countries in 2015, including Nordic region, Mediterranean countries and Western as well as Eastern European countries. Adult population aged 18-64 was sampled in each country with an average sample of 1500 with total number of interviews collected surpassing 32 thousand.
The study confirmed progressing homogenization of drinking in terms of annual consumption which tends to converge across Europe and in drinking preferences as most countries have more than one beverage of choice which dominate in annual consumption. On the other hand, remnants of old drinking patterns still exist with citizens of Mediterranean region drinking more frequently but smaller doses of alcohol per occasion while peoples of Northern Europe, including Nordics, Baltic States and Poland drink less often by much higher doses per occasion.
In result, Northern Europe suffers much higher rates of individual problems as indicated by prevalence of dependence symptoms. On the other hand, prevalence of harm from other people is the lowest in Nordic countries as compared to all other regions. It may suggest that harm from others may be independent of drinking patterns and more related to factors going beyond alcohol cultures and alcohol control policies.