Sweden: Alcohol Use Stable, Purchases Decline During COVID-19

New survey results find that alcohol use is stable in Sweden and alcohol purchases decline during the COVID-19 pandemic. IOGT-NTO says these developments illustrate that basic alcohol policy assumptions work and specific measures should be improved urgently.

The results come from the large scale population survey “Monitormätningarna” – meaning monitoring measurements, conducted by CAN, the Swedish Council for Information on Alcohol and Other Drugs

According to this survey, total registered alcohol purchases decreased by 7% in March and April 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. This is due to the decrease in travel imports and restaurant sales. However, alcohol consumption has remained the same according to the interviews with the survey respondents.

The reduced purchases and imports do not yet appear to have affected the actual consumption of alcohol in the population,” said Björn Trolldal, of CAN, as per the CAN website.

This could be explained by the fact that consumers to a greater extent use [alcoholic] drinks that have been saved from previous purchases or from imports during previous trips,” he added.

Unregistered alcohol purchases also reported a drop by about half compared to the previous year. 

These results are in no way surprising. The reduction in alcohol purchases shows that alcohol policy, consumption and harm developments play out as predicted by well-established science,” says Irma Kilim, Head of Drug Policy at IOGT-NTO.

Fewer people in bars and the complete halt of cross-border alcohol trade have had positive and expected effects.”

Ms Kilim also emphasized that alcohol harm increases disproportionately among the most vulnerable people in society during economic downturns. That’s an important reason to improve alcohol policy solutions when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, for instance through tightened rules for alcohol cross-border trade.

Even if alcohol purchases have declined, the coronavirus crisis has worsened a number of protective factors in society, regarding alcohol harm. That’s why it is important to invest in the protection of vulnerable groups by strengthening addiction treatment, social services, women’s support services and schools,” says Ms Kilim, in an e-mail to Movendi International.

For example, children from families with parental alcohol problems are exposed to difficult situations during current crisis. As services closed, their insecure homes where the only places they had left.

The survey measures registered sales of alcohol (Systembolaget, restaurants and grocery stores) and the unregistered sales which consists of travelers’ imports, purchases of smuggled alcohol, purchases via the Internet (excluding those made through Systembolaget) and home production. The respondents’ self-reported data on their alcohol consumption is also studied in the measurements, regardless of where the alcohol comes from.

The data are based on telephone interviews and responses to a digital survey in respondents’ mobile phones. The survey is conducted daily among a random and representative sample of 17 to 84 year olds in Sweden and includes 18,000 Swedes, per year.

What the Coronavirus Pandemic Means for Vulnerable Children

For further reading:

Sweden: Youth Consumes Less Alcohol During Coronavirus Crisis

Sweden: Youth Consumes Less Alcohol During Coronavirus Crisis