The Swedish Public Health Agency conducted an overall assessment of the effects of COVID-19 on public health in Sweden. One positive finding is that alcohol consumption among young people between the ages 16 to 19 years declined during the pandemic.
Sweden’s alcohol availability reductions during the pandemic have likely contributed to this change. The Swedish government improved their on-trade alcohol availability regulations to curb the spread of the coronavirus, as it became obvious that alcohol-centric environments and events fueled the pandemic. First, from November 20, last year alcohol sales were banned in bars, pubs and restaurants after 10:00 PM. Then from December 24 the new policy was further improved to ban alcohol sales from 8:00 PM in the on-trade. Reducing alcohol availability during the pandemic is a measure recommended by the World Health Organization.
As Movendi International previously reported this policy solution had immediate positive effects in reducing harm from alcohol products in Sweden.
- The police of the metropolitan regions Stockholm and Gothenburg reported reductions in violent crime and robberies.
- SOS calls to the police fell by almost 40% in some hours.
- Police from central Stockholm and Södertälje reported incidences of alcohol violence, specifically pub crime, had also fallen.
Need to improve health promotion and prevention work
However, the new assessment also revealed negative findings. For example, COVID-19 further increased health inequalities in Sweden. Groups that previously had poorer living conditions and disproportionately higher risk of ill health have been most affected by the pandemic. Especially, students who need extra support in schools, people born abroad, employees in the hotel and restaurant trade have been particularly affected.
An alcohol floor price, according to recent results from an analysis of the Swedish Public Health Agency, is an effective solution to reduce health inequalities in the country.
Most Swedes have maintained their habits during the pandemic. But, overall the population has been less physically active and during the autumn mild mental problems seem to have increased. Habits have mostly been affected among young people between 16 to 29 years of age. While alcohol use fell in this age group, young people now exercise less and eaten more unhealthy snacks and sweets.
The Swedish Public Health Agency notes that health promotion and prevention work needs to be strengthened to address the challenges arising from the pandemic.
We already see that the health promotion and prevention work needs to be strengthened and prioritized in order to maintain good public health and reduce inequalities in health,” said Johan Carlson, Director General of the Swedish Public Health Agency, as per, Folkhalsomyndigheten.Johan Carlson, Director General, Swedish Public Health Agency
Sweden has examples of success from prioritizing prevention work. As Movendi International reported earlier the municipalities of Botkyrka and Norrtälje in Sweden have saved millions by prioritizing prevention work. Through increased investment for a safe school environment, drug prevention work and parental support these municipalities have reduced the number of violent crime cases and increased the number of youth completing upper secondary school.