Alcohol consumption in Estonia has been steadily increasing since 2019

In 2022, Estonian residents consumed an average of 11.2 litres (three US gallons; 2.5 imperial gallons) of alcoholic beverages per adult calculated as absolute alcohol, according to a study commissioned by the country’s social ministry and carried out by Institute of Economic Research.

Strong alcoholic beverages and beer made up the largest part of the consumed alcohol, spokespeople for the social ministry said. Converted to drinks, 11.2 litres of absolute alcohol means 11.9 litres of spirits (3.14 US gallons; 2.6 imperial gallons), 79.6 litres (21 US gallons; 17.5 imperial gallons) or about 160 bottles of beer, 16.1 litres (4.15 US gallons; 3.5 imperial gallons) or about 21 bottles of grape wines and 10.6 litres (2.8 US gallons; 2.3 imperial gallons) of other light alcoholic drinks per adult.

The increase in consumption was mainly due to the increase in the consumption of spirits, the consumption of beer decreased slightly.

“Of alcoholic beverages, the consumption of other strong and light alcohol increased, the consumption of wine and vodka remained unchanged, but the consumption of beer decreased. The purchasing power of alcoholic beverages has increased in recent years, as residents’ incomes have increased faster than alcohol prices,” Peeter Raudsepp, the director of the Institute of Economic Research, said. 

“In 2022, too, alcohol prices increased by 5.9 per cent and gross wages by 8.9 per cent, but at the same time the consumer price index increased by 19.4 per cent, which made general expenses very high for residents and reduced the real value of wages. As a result, the growth of alcohol consumption also remained lower than could have been expected based on the purchasing power of alcohol.”

Of alcoholic beverages, the consumption of other strong and light alcohol increased, the consumption of wine and vodka remained unchanged, but the consumption of beer decreased. Photo by CA Creative on Unsplash.

Alcohol is becoming more accessible

The increase in the prices of goods and services was very fast for Estonian consumers last year, while the price of alcoholic beverages was significantly less. The prices of beer and grape wines rose slightly, but the price of hard alcohol remained at the 2021 level or became cheaper. The incomes of the people of Estonia continued to grow in 2022 and alcohol became more accessible.

In addition to a favourable price, alcohol is also physically more easily available in Estonia. Nearly 90 per cent of respondents said they would reach the nearest point of sale of alcohol in less than 10 minutes. Since 2020, the number of sales points has been continuously increasing and alcohol is also available through e-commerce and express couriers. As of May 2023, almost 9,400 points of sale had valid alcohol sales licenses.

According to the National Institute for Health Development, in 2022, 753 people died due to diseases directly caused by excessive alcohol consumption, 58 more than in 2021. Including 92 accidents in which the person who died was found to be under the influence of booze, a total of 845 lives were lost directly due to alcohol.

The highest number of lives was lost due to alcohol among working-age people aged 45-64. The number of deaths directly caused by excessive drinking is increasing for the fifth year. 

It can be hypothesised that, in addition to the increase in total alcohol consumption, the limited access to health services during the COVID-19 pandemic and people being late to seeking treatment in a timely manner also contributed in part to alcohol-related deaths.

Alcohol is also physically more easily available in Estonia. Nearly 90 per cent of respondents said they would reach the nearest point of sale of alcohol in less than 10 minutes. Photo by Bruno Martins on Unsplash.
Alcohol is also physically more easily available in Estonia. Nearly 90 per cent of respondents said they would reach the nearest point of sale of alcohol in less than 10 minutes. Photo by Bruno Martins on Unsplash.

Young people are IDd in less than half the time

“Behind the increase in alcohol-related deaths and presumably also other damage is the relatively cheap price of alcohol in recent years, which was facilitated by economic growth and the excise duty cut in 2019. The easy availability of alcohol and weak enforcement of the Alcohol Act also play a role,” the institute’s director, Annika Veimer, said.

“The National Institute for Health Development 2022 alcoholic beverage test buying study showed that young people who want to buy alcohol are asked for an ID in less than half of the cases. Selling and serving alcohol to people with signs of intoxication is also a problem, which increases the number of injuries and deaths.”

It has been agreed in the European alcohol harm reduction action plan to reduce alcohol consumption by 10 per cent by 2025. Therefore, in order to fulfill this goal, consumption in Estonia should be 10.28 or less in 2025.

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