During the COVID-19 pandemic, on-trade alcohol sales such as in restaurants, pubs, and bars were greatly reduced due to pandemic restrictions and lockdowns. Additionally many German festivals and events where alcohol would have been widely available were canceled. As a result, alcohol availability declined in Germany.
And reduced availability of alcohol is having a positive effect for people and communities in Germany. The Federal Statistical Office recently reported that significantly fewer people came to a hospital in the first year of the pandemic due to alcohol harm. This positive trend was even more prominent among adolescents.
In Germany in 2020, around 12,200 children and adolescents between the ages of 10 to 20 years were hospitalized for acute alcohol inotxication. This is a 39.7% decrease from 2019 when that figure was about 20,300 children and adolescents of this age group.
Overall people being hospitalized due to acute alcohol poisoning has reduced across all age groups in Germany. However, it is most pronounced in younger age groups.
- Compared to 2019, in 2020 there were 23.8% fewer cases of hospitalization for acute alcohol poisoning in Germany in all age groups.
- The largest decrease in hospitalizations for acute alcohol poisoning was observed in younger age groups.
- The 15 to 20-year-old age group saw a 41.7% reduction in hospitalization for acute alcohol poisoning in 2020 compared to 2019.
- The 20 to 25-year-old age group saw a 41.5% reduction in hospitalization for acute alcohol poisoning in 2020 compared to 2019.
- The 40 to 45-year-olds and 60 to 65-year-olds saw a 12.2% reduction in hospitalization for acute alcohol poisoning in 2020 compared to 2019.
Positive trend but worryingly high level of acute alcohol poisoning
While there was a decrease in hospitalization for acute alcohol poisoning during the first pandemic year, the figures are still higher than in 2000. Back in 2000, there were “only” 54,000 cases which is 41.1% less than the 2020 figures at 76,000 cases. Children and adolescents also experienced 28.6% fewer acute alcohol poisoning hospitalizations in 2000 than in 2020.
The Federal Statistical Office reports that per capita case numbers also show an increase across all age groups compared to the year 2000.
This underlines the positive impact that reducing alcohol availability has had during the pandemic on preventing and reducing alcohol harms, such as acute alcohol poisoning.
There was a clear difference between men and women in terms of being hospitalized for acute alcohol poisoning. Men were at a higher risk. In 2020, men accounted for 71.2% of all cases. For the age group 60 to 65-year-olds the risk is even higher with men accounting for 77% of all cases.
According to the DHS 2022 Yearbook, Germany’s per capita adult alcohol use is above the OECD average. The yearbook also noted that vulnerable Germans who were already exposed to psycho-social or health problems had more problems during the COVID-19 pandemic.