Alcohol-related problems among youth in Sweden


Siri Thor, research analyst, CAN
Published 20 Sep 2023

Compared to before the turn of the millennium, fewer young people now drink alcohol, and fewer also binge drink. This is a trend that has been seen both in Sweden, as well as in many other countries. Despite this development, the majority of young people in Sweden still consume alcohol, which can lead to dire consequences. Siri Thor has studied the phenomena in her thesis  Alcohol-related harm among youth in Sweden.

In the year 2022, approximately 70 per cent of people aged 17–18-years, and approximately 40 per cent of 15–16-year-olds drank alcohol. Drinking alcohol is associated with a number of negative consequences. For example, alcohol consumption remains the largest risk factor for mortality and morbidity among people aged 15–24 years. Consequently, the thesis aimed to study alcohol-related problems among young people in Sweden.

Academic orientation as an indicator of socio-economic status

Two of the studies in the thesis focused on self-reported alcohol-related problems among students in upper secondary school. In this context, problems included for example the presence of violence and accidents, victimization, and disturbances in close relationships, in association with alcohol consumption. The aim was to examine how various measures of socioeconomic status was associated with alcohol-related problems.

To measure socioeconomic status we used parental educational level as well as the students’ academic orientation as a proxy for future socio-economic status. There are three possible tracks in Swedish upper secondary school; higher education preparatory, vocational, and introductory programs. Students in introductory constitutes people who not yet has qualified for studies in vocational or higher education preparatory programs but are still enrolled in upper secondary school.

The students experienced different amounts of alcohol-related problems

There was an association between socio-economic status and alcohol-related problems. The results showed that the students’ academic orientation at upper secondary school is important for the number of alcohol-related problems they experience. Students in vocational and introductory programs experienced more alcohol-related problems than students in higher education preparatory programs. Alcohol-related problems are also strongly linked to binge drinking. Binge drinking did explain a large part of why students in vocational programs experienced more problems than students in higher education preparatory programs. However, it didn’t hold any explanatory value among introductory students.

Risk factors explained some of the differences

The thesis also analyzed if truancy, early onset of substance use and parental problematic alcohol use could explain some of the elevated levels of alcohol-related problems in vocational and introductory programs – which it did. Nonetheless, after adjustments for all included risk factors the students in vocational and introductory programs still experienced more alcohol-related problems compared to students in higher education preparatory.

In the future it would be interesting to try to figure out what factors and mechanisms are underlying the elevated levels of alcohol-related problems among the students enrolled in vocational and introductory programs.

The article is written by Siri Thor, research analyst,

on the request of PopNAD