Aims: The aim of this qualitative research is to show how the alcohol socialization process - i.e. the ways children and young people get acquainted with alcohol - can generate very diverse experiences and meanings in different cultural contexts. Method: A total of 16 focus groups were conducted in Italy and Finland, divided by age (4 groups), gender and socio-cultural level. A total of 190 participants took part in the study.

Findings: The findings support the hypothesis that the alcohol socialization process takes place in very different ways and assumes diverse meaning in the two countries involved in the study. In Italy the relationship with alcohol takes place as part of a gradual process and participants' first memories of drinking alcohol are connected to positive values. In Finland, on the other hand, often the first experiences of drinking overlap with the first experiences of intoxication and alcohol images reflect an ambiguous relation with this substance, closely related to its intoxicating effects.

Conclusions: Results show that the alcohol socialization process can take very different forms and meanings according to a specific drinking cultures. Thus, further comparative research should take into more consideration the implication of these substantial differences.

A distinction is made between the clinical and public health justifications for screening and brief intervention (SBI) against hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption. Early claims for a public health benefit of SBI derived from research on general medical practitioners' (GPs') advice on smoking cessation, but these claims have not been realized, mainly because GPs have not incorporated SBI into their routine practice. A recent modeling exercise estimated that, if all GPs in England screened every patient at their next consultation, 96% of the general population would be screened over 10 years, with 70-79% of excessive drinkers receiving brief interventions (BI); assuming a 10% success rate, this would probably amount to a population-level effect of SBI. Thus, a public health benefit for SBI presupposes widespread screening; but recent government policy in England favors targeted versus universal screening, and in Scotland screening is based on new registrations and clinical presentation. A recent proposal for a national screening program was rejected by the UK National Health Service's National Screening Committee because 1) there was no good evidence that SBI led to reductions in mortality or morbidity, and 2) a safe, simple, precise, and validated screening test was not available. Even in countries like Sweden and Finland, where expensive national programs to disseminate SBI have been implemented, only a minority of the population has been asked about drinking during health-care visits, and a minority of excessive drinkers has been advised to cut down. Although there has been research on the relationship between treatment for alcohol problems and population-level effects, there has been no such research for SBI, nor have there been experimental investigations of its relationship with population-level measures of alcohol-related harm. These are strongly recommended. In this article, conditions that would allow a population-level effect of SBI to occur are reviewed, including their political acceptability. It is tentatively concluded that widespread dissemination of SBI, without the implementation of alcohol control measures, might have indirect influences on levels of consumption and harm but would be unlikely on its own to result in public health benefits. However, if and when alcohol control measures were introduced, SBI would still have an important role in the battle against alcohol-related harm.

OBJECTIVE: Western Europe has high levels of alcohol consumption, with corresponding adverse health effects. Currently, a major revision of the EU excise tax regime is under discussion. We quantify the health impact of alcohol price increases across the EU.

DATA AND METHOD: We use alcohol consumption data for 11 member states, covering 80% of the EU-27 population, and corresponding country-specific disease data (incidence, prevalence, and case-fatality rate of alcohol related diseases) taken from the 2010 published Dynamic Modelling for Health Impact Assessment (DYNAMO-HIA) database to dynamically project the changes in population health that might arise from changes in alcohol price.

RESULTS: Increasing alcohol prices towards those of Finland (the highest in the EU) would postpone approximately 54,000 male and approximately 26,100 female deaths over 10 years. Moreover, the prevalence of a number of chronic diseases would be reduced: in men by approximately 97,800 individuals with diabetes, 65,800 with stroke and 62,200 with selected cancers, and in women by about 19,100, 23,500, and 27,100, respectively.

CONCLUSION: Curbing excessive drinking throughout the EU completely would lead to substantial gains in population health. Harmonisiation of prices to the Finnish level would, for selected diseases, achieve more than 40% of those gains.

Aims: To explore norms for alcohol consumption in different parts of Europe, by studying what people mean by "alcohol abuse."

Method: The participants were presented 18 standardized descriptions of different drinking patterns, obtained by systematically varying three levels of frequency of drinking, three levels of intoxication and two levels of context. Random samples of about 1000 persons aged 15 years and over were drawn from each of seven countries: Finland, Germany, Italy (Tuscany), Norway, Poland, Slovenia, and Spain. The participants were asked if they would call each of the descriptions "abuse" or not. As a measure of the "normative climate" in each country, the mean number of descriptions labeled "abuse" was calculated. We also estimated the conditional probabilities for using the different levels of the dimensions (frequency, intoxication, and context), given that the description was labeled "abuse." This gave a quite easy comparison of the relative importance people in each country gave the different dimensions when they evaluated a drinking pattern as "abuse."

Results: Three distinct groups of countries appeared: The Nordic countries had the lowest number of descriptions labeled as "abuse," and Tuscany and Slovenia the highest. The other countries came in the middle.

Conclusion: It seems that norms for alcohol consumption vary geographically over Europe in a way that justifies the often used, but seldom defined, concept of "alcohol culture." Southern European cultural settings suggest a normative system allowing for higher per capita consumption levels but also offering more restrictive informal norms on intoxication. Nordic countries, on the other hand, with their more restrictive alcohol policies, show a pattern of lower per capita consumption levels and less restrictive informal laws governing intoxication during drinking occasions.

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