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Why has alcohol consumption declined in countries of southern Europe?

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Alcohol consumption seems to be decreasing in the traditional wine countries of southern Europe. This paper describes the evolution of alcohol consumption over the last 30 years in France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain. For this purpose, data on alcohol production and per capita alcohol consumption in southern Europe are examined, and their reliability discussed. To analyse alcohol-related mortality, liver cirrhosis death rates are also reviewed. Since 1980 overall alcohol production has increased by 10%, while wine production has decreased by 13%. The consumption of pure alcohol equivalent per capita has continually decreased, from a peak of 14 litres per year in 1974 to 10.4 litres in 1992. The reduction is dramatic for wine (42.3%) and slight for spirits (4.7%), while beer consumption has grown by 36.6%. These data seem to confirm a European trend towards the homogenization of drinking patterns. Marketing factors, public health policies, the evolution of prices and taxation, European Union agricultural policies, a growing awareness of public opinion about the toxicity of alcohol and competition from non-alcoholic drinks are all factors that may partially explain these observed changes.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 1997-03-01

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