Systembolaget, the government-run alcohol retail monopoly in Sweden, has released its Alcohol Report 2020 with the theme “Alcohol and violence”. The report illustrates, among other things, the societal cost of the legal processes due alcohol-related crimes. In 2017, figures show, alcohol-related crime cost Swedish society almost €1 billion. The cost includes the police, trials, investigations and prison care, where the largest proportion is about assault cases. The report states that in violent crimes, the perpetrator was under the influence of alcohol in 57% of the cases, while 31% of the victims had been under the influence of alcohol before the crime was committed.
When it comes to violence in close relationships, there are studies that show that in 49% of cases the perpetrator is under the influence of alcohol.
More generally, it has been calculated how much alcohol costs Swedish society per year, 2017. These costs consists of:
- health care costs,
- social services and the judiciary costs,
- loss of productivity due to employees’ alcohol-related absenteeism (over 600,000 sick days due to alcohol) and presenteeism (underperformance and accidents, injuries at work due to alcohol), and
- more than 5,000 deaths from alcohol-related causes.
The total costs of alcohol’s health, social and economic harm amount to Swedish society amount to $10 billion, every year. This amount can be set in relation to the fact that the state’s revenue from the alcohol tax during the same year amounted to no more than €1.4 billion.
Alcohol increases people’s sense of safety and diminishes people’s freedom
It’s not only the massive costs from alcohol harm, such as violent crime, that burden Swedish society but also alcohol’s adverse effects on people’s sense of safety and freedom.
For example, a new survey conducted by Kantar Sifo on behalf of Systembolaget shows that most people perceive alcohol as an important factor behind violence in society. Nearly a third of the respondents, 31%, also state that they have one or more people in their proximity with whom they feel uncomfortable about associating in contexts where alcohol occurs.
This is worrying information and there is no doubt that the subject is important – many people are affected and women and children are often extra vulnerable,” writes Magdalena Gerger, CEO, Systembolaget.
Hundreds of thousands of children are harmed by parents’ alcohol use, and alcohol costs society enormous sums.”Magdalena Gerger, CEO, Systembolaget
In a study from 2014, up to 15% of adult Swedes stated that they had had negative experiences as a result of the alcohol consumptions of a family member or other close relative in the past year. Nearly 10% had negative experiences from a stranger’s alcohol use.
In 2019, researchers at the Central Association for Alcohol and Drug Information, CAN, conducted a systematic literature review of existing scientific studies to estimate of how many children under the age of 18 grow up with parents who have alcohol problems. The result indicated that 15% of all children in Sweden, approximately 320,000, have been negatively affected by a parent’s or guardian’s alcohol consumption.
Systembolaget’s annual report confirms the massive societal problem that is alcohol violence – a connection that IOGT-NTO had raised awareness about earlier, through their research report “Alcohol and society 2017/18” that dealt with the same topic. Other international studies also show that better alcohol policies are effective in preventing and reducing alcohol violence.
The three most successful alcohol policy solutions are a ban on alcohol advertising, increased prices (through, for example, alcohol taxation) and regulations of alcohol availability through limiting opening hours for alcohol sales, statutory age limits and regulating the number and density of points of sale. Therefore, it is important to safeguard and strengthen the Swedish alcohol monopoly.