Home > Special Eurobarometer: attitudes towards alcohol.

Mongan, Deirdre (2007) Special Eurobarometer: attitudes towards alcohol. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 22, Summer 2007 , p. 8.

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In March 2007, a Eurobarometer special report,Attitudes towards alcohol,1 was published.  Commissioned by the Health and Consumer Protection Directorate-General of the European Commission, the main aim of this survey was to obtain a picture of European citizens’ drinking habits and their attitudes towards measures that potentially influence alcohol-related harm.  The study sample comprised over 28,000 participants from 29 European countries, including Ireland.  Interviews were conducted face-to-face in people’s homes and took place in October and November 2006. 

The majority of Europeans drink, with 66% stating that they had consumed an alcoholic beverage in the preceding 30 days.  The corresponding figure for Irish respondents was 70%, representing an increase of 10 percentage points since the Eurobarometer survey conducted in 2003.  Irish people drink on fewer occasions than their European counterparts.  Just 2% consume alcohol daily, compared to 13% of Europeans, while 41% stated that they drink once per week.  

Although Irish people drink on fewer occasions, they reported a higher prevalence of heavy episodic drinking.  The majority of the EU population reported having fewer than two drinks on a typical drinking occasion (70%), while just 10% usually consume five or more drinks in one sitting.  Ireland tops the country scale for heavy drinking by a considerable margin, with just 28% consuming fewer than two drinks per drinking occasion and 34% usually consuming at least five drinks.  Furthermore, when asked about the frequency of consuming five or more drinks on one occasion in the past year, 28% of Europeans stated they did so at least once a week, compared to 54% of Irish respondents, which was the highest recorded value.  The survey also found men more likely to engage in binge drinking than women and, while younger people (aged 15–24) and students claim to drink on fewer occasions per month than the EU average, they are more inclined to binge drink than the average European. 

The survey also investigated opinions regarding the responsibility for and prevention of alcohol-related harm.  At a European level, a slight majority (52%) consider individuals to be mainly responsible for protecting themselves from alcohol-related harm, although a significant proportion (44%) think that public authorities have to intervene in order to protect individuals.  

Over two-thirds of the EU population (68%) believe that higher prices for alcohol would not discourage young people and heavy drinkers from consumption, and just 33% stated that they would buy less alcohol if prices were to increase by 25%.  Fifteen per cent believe they would buy more alcohol if prices decreased by 25%.  Younger respondents appear to be more sensitive to price changes, with 44% stating that they would buy less alcohol if prices increased and 26% claiming they would buy more alcohol if prices decreased.  

There is broad support for putting warning labels on alcohol bottles in order to inform pregnant women and drivers of the dangers associated with drinking alcohol.  Three-quarters of Europeans (77%) are in favour of such an initiative, while 82% of Irish people are supportive of warning labels.  There is also strong support for measures that restrict young peoples’ exposure to alcohol, with 76% approving of the banning of alcohol advertising that targets young people.  All European countries are strongly in favour of prohibiting the selling and serving of alcohol to people under the age of 18.  Eighty-seven per cent of Europeans and a similar proportion of Irish people (89%) favour such restrictions.  Not surprisingly perhaps, a lower proportion of the youngest respondents (74%) favour controls that tighten regulations concerning themselves.  

The survey also included questions pertaining to alcohol consumption and driving.  It is recommended that the standard blood alcohol concentration (BAC) permitted for drivers should not exceed 0.5 g/l.  All European countries, with the exception of Ireland, the UK and Malta (all three of which have a permitted BAC level of 0.8 g/l), have adopted this limit.  Many respondents are not well-informed about the permitted BAC in their country, with Irish respondents extremely uninformed about the allowed BAC while driving.  When given a choice of four answers, not a single respondent correctly identified the Irish BAC level as being in the range 0.60–1 g/l.  This is surprising especially when one considers that this survey was conducted at a time when there was a lot of media attention in Ireland regarding the introduction of random breath testing.  There is widespread support for reducing the permitted BAC for young and novice drivers to 0.2 g/l in all EU member states.  Seventy-three per cent of all Europeans and 74% of Irish people favour this change.  Eighty per cent of EU citizens believe that random police alcohol checks would reduce alcohol consumption prior to driving.  Irish people demonstrated the second-highest level of support for this proposal (91%).  

In conclusion, this survey shows an increase in the number of people drinking compared to 2003, but the frequency and the amount of consumption has somewhat decreased.  However, this observation does not appear to apply to Ireland, which recorded the highest levels and frequency of binge drinking in the EU.  There is also widespread support for measures aimed at protecting young people from premature exposure to alcohol and reducing alcohol-related road accidents. 


1.  TNS Opinion & Social (2007) Attitudes towards alcohol. Special Eurobarometer 272. Brussels: European Commission.

Item Type:Article
Issue Title:Issue 22, Summer 2007
Date:April 2007
Page Range:p. 8
Publisher:Health Research Board
Volume:Issue 22, Summer 2007
Accession Number:HRB (Available)
Subjects:F Concepts in psychology > Attitude and behaviour > Attitude toward substance use
MP-MR Policy, planning, economics, work and social services > Political process > Public opinion
VA Geographic area > Europe

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