Study: Estonian school children drinking less alcohol

A 25 percent reduction in the alcohol excise duty in Estonia may lead to fewer Estonians traveling to Latvia to purchase alcohol, but also more Finns traveling to Estonia again to buy it. Source: Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

Surveys of Estonian schoolchildren show alcohol consumption increased in the 1990s, remained stable in the early 2000s and has begun to decline since 2003, a University of Tartu student's master thesis shows.

Daisy Kudre's thesis compared Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Finnish and Swedish 15 and 16 year olds between 2003 and 2015. It found that, when compared to 2003, less alcohol is being consumed by teenagers in Estonia. Her results showed both boys and girls consumed less alcohol in Estonia in 2015 - a change similar to Finland. 

In 2003 in Estonia, 60.7 percent of girls said they had consumed alcohol and 60 percent of boys. In 2015 the figure was 39.1 percent for girls and 31.6 percent for boys. Lithuania saw the biggest decrease while Latvia had the smallest.

The graphs below show the amount (percent) of school children consuming alcohol in 2003 and 2015 for girls (graph 1 - Alcohol consumption among girls has decreased in all countries) and boys (graph 2 - Alcohol consumption among boys has decreased in all countries) in Estonia, Latvia (Lati), Lithuania (Leedu), Finland (Soome) and Sweden (Rootsi).

Kudre wrote that as so many illnesses are linked to alcohol use and dependency it is important to understand how and when alcohol-related behaviour patterns begin, which they often do in adolescence and the need for prevention.

Her research shows boys and girls in all countries monitored had a better chance of drinking alcohol, whose parents often did not know where the child was on Saturday night. 

Those who had been absent from school for the past 30 days, who smoked, used cannabis, and perceived alcohol readily available were also at greater risk of drinking. When looking at Estonian girls, it was found those from a family with a better financial background had a higher chance of drinking alcohol than those from a family with a poorer economic background.

Kudre also discussed in her research the reasons why alcohol consumption among school students has decreased. Studies that have been published around the world have led to a reduction in school students' alcohol consumption due to increased awareness of the harmful effects of alcohol, the introduction of comprehensive alcohol prevention measures, and changes in social practices, attitudes and conditions. 

In addition, it was pointed out that the decline in alcohol consumption among school students fits into the context of 21st Century Western countries, which is described by the overall decline in risk behaviors, including smoking, drug use, and sexual risk behaviors. But this line of thinking is not supported by research on risk behavior among European school students. "While prevalence rates for alcohol and smoking have declined in most countries in the 2000s, prevalence rates for cannabis and other drugs have remained stable or increased slightly," Kudre said.

Daisy Kudre defended her Master's thesis at the Institute of Family Medicine and Public Health, University of Tartu. It is based on survey data from the European Survey of Alcohol, Tobacco and Drug Use in 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015. The sample included 57,779 Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Finnish and Swedish school students who had been asked about alcohol use in the last 30 days.

The Master's thesis was supervised by Kersti Pärna, Senior Research Scientist and Associate Professor of Health Promotion, and Sigrid Vorobjov, Head of the Drug and Infectious Disease Epidemiology Department of the National Institute for Health Development.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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