Decline in alcohol-related harm among Nordic adolescents

A study of the explanations and consequences of the decline in adolescents’ drinking in the Nordic countries through the last twenty years


This two-year Nordic research collaboration, involving researchers from Denmark (P.I.), Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, aims to examine in-depth explanations for the 20-year decline in youth drinking in the Nordic countries. Project aims are:

1) Examine explanations of the decline in adolescents’ drinking:

  • to what extent do parental control and leisure time activities explain the declining trends in youth drinking?
  • which components of alcohol consumption (non-drinking, frequency or amount) are driving the decline?

2) Examine possible changes in alcohol-related harm concomitant with the decline in youth drinking:

  • is the decline in adolescents’ alcohol use associated with a decline in alcohol-attributable harm such as violence?
  • has the association between alcohol consumption indicators and risk of alcohol-related harm changed along with the decline in prevalence of youth drinking?


Recent research offers solid evidence for a marked decline in adolescents’ alcohol use in the Nordic countries. Less is known as to how these declining trends can be explained and to what extent they are followed by declining alcohol-related harm among youth. The aim of the proposed workshop series is to examine these questions using a comparative approach, drawing on the unique similarities and differences between the Nordic countries. This approach will provide novel insights as to the reasons for and implications of this decline in youth drinking.

The study

We will analyse data from the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) collected from 15- to 16-year-old adolescents in 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019 (ESPAD Group, 2016). Below are the approaches to be used for each research question:

  1. We will use country-specific regression analyses to examine and then compare the possible explanations (correlates) of the decline in youth drinking.
  2. We will apply descriptive analyses to examine whether the proportions of non-drinkers have increased since the millennium shift, and by comparing mean values across countries and subpopulations, whether there has been a decline in drinking frequency and amount consumed during the same period.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, as of March 2021 the project has utilised virtual meetings in 2020 to conduct its work and collaboration. We hope to begin to meet in person in the autumn of 2021.

The project is planned to run from January 2020 through June 2022


Nordic Research Councils in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NOS-HS)


National Institute of Public Health (SIF), Denmark
Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI), Norway
Council for Information on Alcohol and other Drugs (CAN), Sweden
National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), Finland
Directorate of Health, Iceland
University of Iceland
Nordic Centre for Welfare and Social Issues (NVC)