Alcohol, in moderate quantities, is an accepted part of social intercourse in Sweden, both social and public. Drinking is also traditionally common amongst students.
There's often alcohol in the glasses at birthday celebrations, baptisms and weddings, and it is said to grease the social wheels when people who don't know each other meet at pubs, clubs, etc. The group that drinks the largest amount of alcohol in Sweden is men between the ages of 20 and 24, which corresponds well with the student age-group.
Most people who have drunk alcohol have experienced its positive effects, and not uncommonly some of its negative ones too. The fact is that alcohol affects the entire body, and its over-consumption - or risk-zone drinking - can eventually give rise to a catalogue of physical and mental problems. Being drunk brings the danger of injury, accident and inappropriate behaviour (ending in embarrassment or remorse). Over-consumption can also lead to more serious alcohol problems, such as abuse or addiction, if it isn't caught in time.
So - if you do drink - how can you tell if you drink too much? How much is too much? And how can you learn to control your drinking? You will find the answers to some of these questions here, and a link to a site where you can test your drinking behaviour. If you have any more questions, you're welcome to contact the Student Health Centre.
Do I drink too much?
You can test your drinking behaviour here. The questionnaire consists of eight questions.
How much is too much?
Well, that's a question with many different answers. Some people say you should drink no more than would prevent you being able to handle the situation you're in; others say that as long as you don't hurt anyone and are "merry" then no harm done; yet others would say that it's OK to drink roughly as much as everyone else is at the party. Much of what people say about drinking is governed by opinions, morals and culture.
The National Institute of Public Health (FHI) describes over-consumption as a level of drinking that increases the risk of physical, mental and social harm. The step from small risk to high risk is an indeterminate one and there is as yet no acknowledged risk-free level of consumption. The FHI has drawn the following line between risk consumption and non-risk consumption:
A standard glass is the same as:
- 2 bottles of low alcohol beer
- 1 50 cl. can of medium strength beer
- 1 33 cl. bottle of strong beer
- 1 glass of red or white wine
- 4 cl. sprits, e.g. whisky
Definition of risky alcohol consumption
Risky alcohol consumption is defined using two different measures of risk - total weekly consumption and the drinking pattern or frequency of so-called intensive consumption. Risky weekly consumption is defined as below:
- Less than 10 standard glasses/week - low risk of alcohol problems
- 10-14 standard glasses/week - approaching risky alcohol consumption
- 15 standard glasses or more/week - risky consumption
- Less than 7 standard glasses/week - low risk of alcohol problems
- 7-9 standard glasses/week - approaching risky alcohol consumption
- 10 standard glasses or more/week - risky consumption
Intensive consumption (binge drinking) refers to the consumption of a large amount of alcohol on one occasion - which for women is 4 or more standard glasses, for men 5 or more.
- More rarely than once a month = low risk of alcohol-related problems
- 1-3 times a month = risk of alcohol-related problems
- Once a week or more frequently = serious risk of alcohol-related problems
It's enough to meet one of these two criteria to be classified as a risk drinker: high weekly consumption or intensive consumption once a week - or both. Amongst students, the latter is more likely than the former.
Even low-level alcohol consumption can be dangerous in certain circumstances, such as during pregnancy, at work, while driving, during childhood/adolescence, when ill or on medication, or if the drinker is hypersensitive to alcohol.
Do I drink too much?
As described above, the boundary between "risk-free" and "risky" alcohol consumption is a vague one. There are individual differences, and some people tolerate alcohol better (or worse) than others. Genes play a part in this: parents or grandparents with an alcohol dependency are a risk factor, as is, paradoxically, having a high alcohol tolerance. You also raise your tolerance level every time you get drunk. The bottom line is that you need to take control and decide how much you drink. Just think about this and how vulnerable you are.
Can I learn to control my alcohol consumption?
- Plan your drinking.
- Drink slowly.
- Take it easy with the pre-party drinking.
- Put a cap on how much you're going to drink during an evening (e.g. by only taking with you the money you will need to cover your planned consumption).
- Savour your drink instead of immediately refilling your glass.
- Never mix strong drinks (e.g. spirits and strong beer).
- Alternate your drinks with a glass of water or other alcohol-free drink, and try to always have a glass of water at hand.
- Choose weaker amounts of spirit (one shot instead of two).
- Don't drink on an empty stomach, and eat at the party, not just at home.
- Have the courage to say no - how much fun you have is up to you, not your friends or what you drink.
- Don't egg each other on to drink.
Do you want to reduce your alcohol consumption?
There are many reasons why people might want to reduce their drinking or change their alcohol habits. Here are some that you might like to apply to yourself - are any of them relevant to you, or do you have other, personal, reasons?
Do you have any questions about alcohol?
Are you concerned about your own habits or worried that someone you know is drinking too much? The Student Health Centre is here to give you support and information; our staff are specifically trained in alcohol prevention and in talking to students who feel uncomfortable or unhappy with their alcohol and drug habits. We also work with alcohol researchers at Linköping University.
Feel free to contact us to book a consultation.