Binge drinking highest in Ireland, Britain, Finland |

Binge drinking highest in Ireland, Britain, Finland

BRUSSELS, Belgium ” Binge drinking continues to be a problem in Ireland, Britain, Finland and Denmark, according to a European Union survey of alcohol consumption released Wednesday.

The poll, conducted in October and November, found that almost one in five people between the ages of 15 and 24 reported drinking five or more alcoholic beverages in one session, or 19 percent of those asked across the 27-nation bloc, Croatia and northern Cyprus.

EU spokesman Philip Tod said the EU poll, which questioned 28,584 people, defined binge drinking as consuming more than five alcoholic drinks in one sitting.

The poll found that 34 percent of Irish people questioned said they “usually” binge drink, followed by Finland, where 27 percent of respondents said they did the same. Britain was third with 24 percent and Denmark fourth with 23 percent.

Much lower levels of alcohol were consumed in Italy and Greece, where only 2 percent of those asked said they binge drink. Tod said the survey found that the average of binge drinking was around the same level as the last survey conducted in 2003 on alcohol consumption.

“Although 59 percent of Europeans drink moderately, one or two drinks at a time, 10 percent of Europeans usually drink five or more drinks at a time,” Tod said. “This figure is particularly high among the 15 to 24 age group.”

Tod said the European Commission is calling for better public education of the dangers of drinking too much, especially for pregnant women, drivers and young people.

The British government started an awareness campaign last year to alert young people to the dangers of binge drinking. Britain and Ireland have long struggled with high levels of alcohol-fueled violence, especially on weekends. The British government estimates that half of all violent crime is alcohol-related.

The EU survey also found 77 percent of those asked agreed to changes in the way alcohol is sold, including putting warning labels on bottles.

Seventy-six percent were in favor of a ban on alcohol ads that target young people and 73 percent backed lower blood-alcohol level limits for young drivers.

The Commission has said about 55 million adults, or more than 10 percent of the population, drink at harmful levels in the EU. Alcohol is the third-highest cause of illness and early death, killing 195,000 people a year. More than one-fourth of traffic accident deaths on EU roads are caused by drunk-driving.

Europe remains the heaviest drinking region in the world, with the average adult consuming about 11 quarts of pure alcohol annually, or the equivalent of the alcohol content in 1,400 beers, according to figures provided by the Commission.

The survey posted a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

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