Since 1962 the Norwegian Institute for Alcohol and Drug Research has collected data about drinking habits from representative samples of the Norwegian population. The surveys have been carried out approximately every five years; last time in 2004. The first studies were limited to questions about drinking frequencies, but since 1973 people have been asked how much they usually drink of different types of alcoholic beverages during a drinking session. On the basis of questions about frequencies and quantities consumed, it was possible to estimate average alcohol consumption during the last year, and to give a description of changes in average alcohol consumption per year from 1973 to 2004.
Since 1973 the respondents have also answered questions about quantity of alcohol consumed during the last drinking occasion.
Based on the assumption that these last drinking occasions were representative for the way Norwegians used to drink alcoholic
beverages, it was possible to analyse changes in the drinking pattern from 1973 to 2004.
It is a well-known fact that quantity of alcohol consumed during a drinking occasion is linked to the context of the occasion.
Therefore, questions about where the last drinking occasion took place, and the number of participating persons were included
in the survey instrument. This gave us an opportunity to analyse in which way the amount consumed is linked to contextual
The first part of the report, chapters 1-4, discusses the content of the term “drinking pattern”, in relation to terms like
drinking culture, drinking customs and drinking habits. In this part we draw on Bourdieu’s theories of the structure and formation
of society. We reserve the term drinking pattern as a quantitative measure suitable to describe the way alcohol is consumed
among a group of people; i.e. the drinking pattern consists of a set of values on a number of defined variables: average drinking
frequency, average amount per drinking occasion, the share of the drinking occasions, which may be termed binge drinking,
the distribution of the consumption among the different alcoholic beverages, weekly drinking rhythm, and some contextual variables.
In chapter 5 the data base is described, while an analysis of the changes in the number of non-drinkers (people who have not
consumed alcohol last year) is described in chapter 6. The share of non-drinkers fell from 32% in 1956 to 17% in 1966, and
decreased further to 13% in 2004. It was a little bit more usual to drink alcohol among men than women, but the differences
between genders tended to be smaller and smaller during the whole period. In 2004, 15% of women and 11% of men said that they
had not consumed any alcoholic beverage during the last year.
During the rest of the report we discuss the drinking pattern among those who declared they had drunk alcohol last year, i.e.
the part of the population that forms the drinking pattern.
In chapters 7-9 we analyse how different characteristics - i.e. sex, age, education, marital status, occupation, income, place
of living, and year of the study - affected the preference for different alcoholic beverages, the incidence of binge drinking,
and the amount of alcohol consumed during last year.
The analyses showed that characteristics such as sex, occupation, and age affected the preference of beer during the last
drinking occasion. Beer was most popular among young, male blue-collar workers. The data showed that the popularity of beer
had increased over the years.
Sex, age, education, place of living, and year of interview were factors that influenced the choice of wine. Well educated
women in their 40s and 50s living in big cities were most likely to prefer wine. The popularity of wine showed a strong increase
The preferences for liquor were influenced by sex, education, occupation, and place of living. Liquor was most often preferred
by male blue-collar workers living in rural areas. Contrary to beer and wine, the popularity of liquor showed a marked decrease
Alcopops were first and foremost preferred by female adolescents aged 15-20 years. Consumption of alcopops was almost non-existing
among the older age groups.
Home-made spirits were most often consumed by young, male blue-collar workers living in rural areas, while home-made wine
was most often consumed by well-educated people living in small towns and in the country-side. The popularity of home-made
wine and spirits had decreased over time.
Binge drinking occasions were mainly influenced by sex, age, marital status, type of alcoholic beverage and the place where
the drinking took place. Situations in which young, single men drank liquor outside their own home were most likely to lead
to binge drinking.
When it comes to the quantity of alcoholic beverages consumed over the last year, the data showed that men on average consumed
2.5 times more than women. The alcohol consumption decreased by age, while it seemed to increase with income, education and
over time. People who lived in the Oslo area consumed more alcoholic beverages than people living in small towns and rural
Chapter 10 consists of a cohort analysis of the data of yearly consumption and binge drinking. We tried to separate the effects
of aging, time period and introduction of new generations and found that the increasing alcohol consumption was mainly due
to the fact that new generations drank more than the generations before them, while there had been no changes due to time
period or changes in the effect of aging. However, binge drinking was affected by changes in the effect of aging in addition
to a generation effect; binge drinking had become somewhat more common among older people than it was in the 70ies. This tendency
was stronger among men than among women.
In chapters 11-18 we take a closer look at the characteristics we use to describe the Norwegian drinking pattern. We separated
the population into four groups: blue-collar workers; white-collar workers; students, pupils and apprentices, and retirees
and social insurance recipients. The characteristics we studied were choice of alcoholic beverage, quantity consumed per drinking
occasion and during last year, binge drinking, weekly drinking rhythm, location of drinking, and drinking company. We also
analysed the consumption of so-called unregistered alcohol, i.e. home-made spirits, home-made-wine, smuggled spirits, alcoholic
beverages bought in tax-free shops, and border trade with alcoholic beverages. Finally, we discussed if any of the groups
had changed their drinking habits in such a way that it became more like the way alcohol is used in the Mediterranean countries
(i.e. wine to meals). The data showed no such development for any of the different social groups.
In chapter 19 we give a summary of the Norwegian alcohol policy during the period 1970-2004, while we summarize the results
of the study in the last chapter.
Appendix 2 contains the figures which are the basis of the diagrams reproduced in the report.
The Norwegian drinking pattern
A study based on analyses of survey data from 1973-2004