Background: Alcohol misuse is a global public health priority, with a variation in prevalence and impact between countries. Alcohol misuse in adolescence is associated with adverse psychological, social and physical health. Adolescents in Denmark have higher alcohol consumption and problematic alcohol use than adolescents in other European countries. Associations between social determinants of health (SDH), psycho-social factors and alcohol consumption are complex and influenced by national context and cultures. This study explored these associations in Danish adolescents.
Method: The European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) survey collects data on alcohol and substance use among 15–16-year-old European students. Data contributed by Danish students to the 2011 survey were analyzed. The outcomes of interest were alcohol consumption (any, intoxication and problematic). Health literacy was not directly measured, so self-described educational performance and knowledge about alcohol were used as proxies for health literacy. Exploratory factors thus included socio-demographic, health literacy-related (knowledge about alcohol, educational performance) and psycho-social factors, as well as expectancies of the effect of alcohol (both positive and negative) and self-reported health. Univariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses were undertaken.
Results: Of the 2768 adolescents who participated in the survey, 2026 (80%) consumed alcohol during the last 30 days, 978 (38%) were intoxicated at least once during the last 30 days, and 1050 (41%) experienced at least one problem because of alcohol use during the last 12 months. Multivariable analysis showed that the factors associated with higher alcohol intake were gender, poor relationships with parents, expectancies of the impact of alcohol (both positive and negative), and the influence of peers and their alcohol use. Higher school performance was related to lower alcohol consumption. Low socio-demographic status was not associated with higher alcohol consumption.
Conclusions: This study confirmed the high levels of alcohol intake, intoxication, and problem drinking amongst the Danish students in the survey and the complexity of the socio-demographic, psychosocial, health literacy-related, and environmental factors associated with alcohol behaviours. Approaches to addressing the issue of alcohol use in Danish adolescents will need to be multi-factorial, including supporting students to develop alcohol-related health literacy skills to enable them to make informed choices.