Tiny fraction consumes most alcohol in heaviest-drinking country

In a rebuttal to controversial advertising restrictions, a research study commisioned by the Lithuanian Business Confederation claims that 4% of the population consumes 26% of all alcohol.

Daiva Repeckaite
Daiva Repeckaite NewsMavens, Lithuania
Tiny fraction consumes most alcohol in heaviest-drinking country - NewsMavens
Drinker, Pixabay

Why this story matters:

From this year on, any advertising about alcoholic drinks in Lithuania can only be factual and must avoid associating alcohol with any positive emotions or experiences. This is a challenge for small breweries, event organisers dependent on advertising, and alcohol connoisseurs. However, the government justified the policy by stating that it's an emergency -- Lithuania is one of the heaviest-drinking countries in the world.

As many businesses are affected by the new policy, the Lithuanian Business Confederation commissioned a study from Vilnius University to discover whether the policy is targeting the root causes of these damning statistics. While the research is an attempt to provide nuance and evidence for policy, there is a clear business interest in showing that posh drinks do not contribute to unfavourable statistics.

According to the research team leader, Dr Vita Karpuškienė, 4% of the population consumes 26% of all alcohol. Additionally, nearly a half of all heavy drinkers have been involved in violent stand-offs in their communities.

Evidence from this research thus serves as a pat on the back for the craft-beer-drinking middle class, but the researchers and lobbyists are aiming for more than that. They are  trying to convince the government to redirect alcohol tariff revenues towards solving the deep-seated issues of the predominantly rural population which self-medicates their anxiety with alcohol.

Details from the story:

  • Statistically, alcohol consumption has been declining for years, but it is still very high.
  • A typical heavy drinker is male, over 50, with a secondary education, and a grim self-assessment of their financial standing. The following characteristics apply to over a third of heavy drinkers: they are unemployed, earn less than 600 euros per month, and are divorced.
  • Anxiety, helplessness and a lack of meaningful activities are among the root causes of alcohol abuse.
  • Heavy drinkers typically consume wine with increased alcohol content and strong beer. Meanwhile, occasional drinkers tend to consume wine, whisky, rum and light beer. Nearly a quarter of them have been trying to reduce their alcohol consumption.
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