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Young Finns using less alcohol, drugs than European peers

On average, young people in Finland use less alcohol and illegal drugs than their European counterparts, according to a fresh report from the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL). But mixed abuse of alcohol and prescription medications by young Finns is more common than by their peers across Europe.

Mies juo olutta pillillä tuopista terassilla.
A less common sight among Finnish youth. Image: Yle

According to a new report issued by the state research and development institute THL, the number of 15 and 16 year-olds who don't use alcohol at all has increased in Finland and in some parts of Europe over the past two decades.

It was found that, on average, younger Finns also drink less than their European counterparts.

Some 26 percent of Finnish youths said they have never had an alcoholic drink, according to the international survey carried out by the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD).

Meanwhile, some 20 percent of young Europeans aged 15 to 16 said they'd never had alcohol, the ESPAD survey found.

Still drinking to get drunk

While overall consumption of alcohol by young people has declined across Europe, teens still tend to drink to get drunk.

Twenty-three percent of Finnish 15 and 16 year-olds said that they had consumed at least six servings of alcohol at a time at least once in the past 30 days, while the average for European youths that had done so was around 33 percent.

Another question on the survey concerned the exact amount of alcohol consumed the last time the young respondents drank booze.

On average, Finnish teens drank some 5.96 centilitres (of 100 percent pure alcohol) - significantly more than fellow Europeans who drank some 4.7 centilitres of pure alcohol the last time they drank.

Teens smoking less, too

A good piece of news for health officials in Finland is that Finnish teens' practice of drinking to get drunk has declined much more quickly than European averages. Finnish teens said it was more difficult to obtain alcohol than teens in other European countries.

Young people are also smoking less tobacco nowadays. The number of those who smoke daily has seen a steady decline during the 2000s both in Europe and in Finland.

Finnish teens also smoke less than other Europeans, the study found; however young Finns lead the Nordics in smoking statistics. Finnish teens said it was easier to buy tobacco than those in other European countries.

In Finland - and across Europe - the most common drug of choice by teens is cannabis. Finnish teens said it was more difficult to get cannabis than teens from other countries.

The use of cannabis as well as other drugs is less common in Finland and the rest of the Nordics than other European countries.

The practice of mixing alcohol and prescription medication has declined among 15 and 16 year olds in Finland, but remains more common than in the rest of Europe and much more common than in other Nordic countries, the report said.

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