Young Danes drink less than they did a few years ago, and they start drinking later than previous generations of young people. However, compared to the rest of Europe, Denmark still has the highest proportion of 15-year-olds who have experience of being drunk.
Key figures on young people's use of alcohol in Denmark:
# In 1998, 74% of 11-year-old boys and 58% of 11-year-old girls had tried alcohol, while in 2018 the figure was 20% among boys and 7% among girls.
# Among 15-year-olds, there has also been a large decline in alcohol use, but the decline appears to have slowed in the most recent 2018 survey, which shows a slight increase in the proportion of 15-year-old boys who have tried alcohol.
# Measured by binge-drinking, drunkenness and the amount of alcohol consumed, Danish young people have the highest consumption of alcohol compared to young people in other European countries.
# Alcohol consumption among young people increases significantly at the transition from primary school to upper secondary education, especially among young people starting upper secondary school.
# Around 12% of 16-24 year-olds exceed the Danish Health Authority's high-risk limit. Of these, 15% want to reduce their alcohol consumption. 23% of 16-24-year-old males and 31% of 16-24-year-old females exceed the Danish Health Authority's low-risk drinking limit.
# 54% of 16-24-year-old men and 47% of 16-24-year-old women have had more than five drinks on the same occasion in the past month, a decrease in prevalence compared to 2010 when the figures were 61% and 53% respectively.
Source: Danish Health Authority
According to the report "Alcohol habits of young people in Denmark in 2014" (2014) that has been created by the Danish Cancer Society and TrygFonden’s alcohol campaign with the Danish title, ”Fuld af liv”, the majority of young people aged 15-25 have tried alcohol, and eight out of ten have been drunk.
Six out of ten young people aged between 15-25 state that their parents had permitted them to drink alcohol before they were 16 years old. Fewer young people aged 15-20 than those aged 21-25 were allowed to drink alcohol before they were 16 years old.
By far the majority of young people aged 15-25 are aware of the age restrictions on the purchase of alcohol in Denmark. 27% of young people aged 15-25 believe that purchasing alcohol should be banned for those aged under 18. Among those aged 15-17, who would personally be affected by an age limit of 18, barely one in four (23%) support an age limit of 18 for the purchase of alcohol.
The respondents were also asked about the illness they believe heavy alcohol consumption can lead to. The majority mention liver disease (85%). One in four thinks that heavy alcohol consumption can lead to heart disease, while 16% believe that it can lead to alcohol dependence and alcohol poisoning. Furthermore, 16% believe that heavy alcohol consumption can lead to cancer and finally, 15% believe that it can lead to brain and/or nerve damage.
According to another survey, almost a quarter (24 per cent) of all Danes over 18 who drink alcohol have felt pressured to drink more alcohol than they’ve wanted to. The survey, compiled by YouGov for Metroxpress newspaper, also showed that the figure shoots up to 42 per cent when only looking at young people aged 18-29.
2018 study (König et al) found that, in Denmark, an environment with high levels of alcohol availability and alcohol consumption, students aged 15 to 16 years who are at risk of high alcohol consumption and risky drinking are more likely to be in a peer group that drinks alcohol and to be experiencing problems with friends and at home. They are not likely to be performing poorly at school or to come from socio-economically deprived backgrounds. The study results indicate the likely importance of legal and cultural contexts; while alcohol consumption at the age of 15 years is not legal in Denmark, it is widespread, and students have very high exposure to alcohol.
Danish research: Ground rules can halt youth drinking
When parents set firm ground rules for drinking as kids, their children drink less than their counterparts, according to new Danish research published in March 2018.
One of the other trends discovered in the results was that alcohol consumption habits that were established during teenage years often persist through the start of adulthood. “There is a specific reason to be aware of teenagers who drink the most. They seem to maintain their leading drinking position up into adulthood," study authors concluded.
Danish report: age limit for alcohol sales must be raised to 18 years
In July 2019 The Council on Health and Disease Prevention in Denmark published a new report on youth drinking to summarise knowledge about the reasons why youth consume as much alcohol as they do, and to describe how high and problematic alcohol consumption may be prevented among children and adolescents.
Danish children and adolescents have the highest consumption of alcohol in Europe.
The Danish alcohol culture among youth is mainly a culture of intoxication, i.e. a culture in which you drink alcohol at specific occasions and use alcohol to celebrate. Youth typically drink in groups, and alcohol affects interactions, i.e. it plays a role in establishing and strengthening friendships. Therefore, it is difficult to opt-out of alcohol for youth, because thereby they lose part of their social environment. Additionally, alcohol is used to promote oneself as a “proper youth”, as opposed to someone who is more associated with being a child.
It is well-documented that countries where the minimum legal drinking age is high and effectively enforced, and countries where alcohol prices are high, have fever children and adolescents who drink alcohol.
The report outlines desirable future perspectives regarding youth and alcohol.
The following would constitute a step in the right direction: 1) a higher minimum age limit for sale of alcohol (The age limit should be 18 years of age), 2) enforcement of the minimum age limit for sale of alcohol, and 3) preparation of a shared national alcohol policy that takes a holistic approach to develop the alcohol culture through a set of shared guidelines for interventions and aims for the alcohol culture.
Additionally, we need a broad discussion engaging parents, policymakers, school leaders, teachers and youth to clarify more how we may modify the Danish alcohol culture to make room for youth (and adults) who prefer drinking very little or not drinking at all. We must make it possible for youth to avoid alcohol without affecting their social life and relationship-building activities, and in this context, the upper-secondary schools have an important role to play in establishing a suitable framework.