Study: Alcohol consumption, related deaths in 2020 up from prior year

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Alcohol shelves in a store. Source: Priit Luts/ERR

Estonian residents in 2020 consumed 10.5 l of absolute alcohol per adult (15+), 1.7 percent up from the year prior. There were 108 more deaths directly related to alcohol, a study by the Estonian Institute of Economic Research shows.

Alcohol consumption increased for the second consecutive year and has now reached the highest level of the past five years, the Ministry of Social Affairs ordered study shows. The researchers behind "Eesti alkoholiturg, alkoholi tarbimine ja alkoholipoliitika 2020. aastal" (link in Estonian) place most of the blame for the increased consumption on lowered prices.

An adult Estonian drank an average of 10.5 l of alcoholic drinks last year, the largest part of which (63 percent) was made up of light beverages, including 4.1 l of beer, 1.9 l of grape wines and 0.6 l of other light beverages.

Spirits made up 3.9 l of all consumed alcohol on average, including 2.5 l of vodka per one adult person in Estonia.

The increase in consumption largely stems from an increase in spirits consumption, the consumption of beer and wine remained on the same level as the year prior and the consumption of light alcoholic beverages decreased, the study conductors noted.

"A 1.7 percent growth in alcohol consumption is negative, but consumption increased significantly less than purchasing power," said Estonian Institute of Economic Research Marje Josing.

"The 25 percent reduction in excise duties in 2019 brought along decreased retail prices and retail prices fell most for spirits. This led to alcohol being bought abroad less and increased purchasing on the domestic market. Purchasing from abroad was also limited due to travel restrictions related to the pandemic," Josing said.

Incomes increased by 2.9 percent on average in 2020 and alcohol prices decreased by 4.9 percent on average. Data from the institute shows that the average Estonian net wage allowed people to buy 66 more liters of beer or 17 more liters of vodka than two years before, prior to the excise duty reduction.

Stemming from restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, purchases from abroad and tourists' purchases and consumption in and from Estonia also decreased.

€211 million was collected in alcohol excise duty last year, €14 million less than the year prior and €18 million less than the initial 2020 estimate. According to the institute, the lower amount comes from significantly smaller purchases from Estonia by foreign tourists.

Preliminary data from the National Institute for Health Development (Tervise Arengu Instituut) shows that 615 people died of diseases directly caused by excessive consumption of alcohol, up by more than 100 from 2019, also the largest number over the last decade.

Leading causes of death are alcoholic liver disease, followed by accidental poisoning, alcoholic cardiomyopathy and alcohol-related mental and behavioral disorders.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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