Danish report: age limit for alcohol sales must be raised to 18 years

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 a high and problematic alcohol consumption may be prevented among children and adolescents.

Danish children and adolescents start drinking later and generally drink less alcohol than they did 20 years ago. Even so, when they conclude their course of municipal primary and lower secondary school and start attending upper secondary education, their alcohol consumption increases markedly. The latest figures from The Health Behaviour in School-aged Children Study show that the positive trend in youth alcohol consumption has come
to a halt – and that a small increase in alcohol consumption seems likely, particularly among 15-year-old boys.

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.









Youth and alcohol – desirable future perspectives?

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 developing 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, policy makers, 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.