Home > Understanding the association between alcohol stigma and alcohol consumption within Europe: a cross-sectional exploratory study.

Kummetat, Johanna Leona and Leonhard, Anya and Manthey, Jakob and Speerforck, Sven and Schomerus, Georg (2022) Understanding the association between alcohol stigma and alcohol consumption within Europe: a cross-sectional exploratory study. European Addiction Research, 28, (6), pp. 446-454. https://doi.org/10.1159/000526200.

External website: https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/526200

Stigma towards alcohol-related conditions is more pronounced than stigma against any other mental illness and has remained high throughout past decades. Although alcohol consumption is a known and persistent contributor to the burden of disease and interpersonal threat and may thus shape public attitudes towards consumption, no study to date has provided an overview of the prevalence of alcohol stigma and its association with (a) alcohol consumption and (b) harm attributable to alcohol across Europe. As a social reaction to thresholds of accepted use of alcohol, stigma could impact consumption, resulting in a reduced quantity or at least less harmful drinking patterns. This contribution provides an initial overview by addressing the following research questions. (i) What are the country-level prevalence rates of alcohol stigma compared across European countries? (ii) Is alcohol stigma associated with (a) alcohol consumption and (b) alcohol-attributable harm? (iii) Is there an association between alcohol stigma and alcohol consumption by type of beverage?

We combined data on country-level desire for social distance towards "heavy drinkers" (European Values Survey, operationalization of "alcohol stigma") with indicators of alcohol consumption, including adult per capita consumption (APC), heavy episodic drinking, consumption by type of beverage (wine, beer, spirits), and harm attributable to alcohol, namely age-standardized disability-adjusted life years lost to alcohol consumption (AADALYs) for 28 countries. Linear regression models were applied.

(i) Social distance varied noticeably across countries (M = 62.9%, SD = 16.3%) in a range of 28.3% and 87.3%. (ii) APC was significantly positive related to social distance (β = 0.55, p = 0.004). (iii) Wine consumption was significantly negative related to social distance; the opposite was true for spirits consumption. No association was found for beer consumption. The best model fit was achieved with APC (β = 0.48, p = 0.002) and wine per capita consumption (β = -0.55, p < 0.001) explaining 57.0% (adjusted R2) of the variance in social distance.

Our study shows a strong relationship between country-level alcohol stigma and alcohol consumption. If stigma was to deter people from harmful alcohol consumption, it would be expected that higher levels of alcohol stigma are associated with lower levels of overall alcohol consumption or consumption of spirits in particular. Instead, stigma seems to be a reaction to harmful drinking patterns without changing these patterns for the better.

Item Type
Publication Type
International, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Intervention Type
Prevention, Harm reduction
9 September 2022
Identification #
Page Range
pp. 446-454

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