Aims: The purpose of this study was to compare the phenomenon of episodic heavy drinking (binge drinking) and its different indicators in the Nordic countries.
Design: A comparative survey of four Nordic countries.
Setting: Telephone interviews in Denmark, 1997; Finland, 1996; Norway, 1996; and Sweden 1996-97.
Participants: Random samples of men and women aged 19-71 years.
Measurements: Episodic heavy drinking was measured by the frequency of subjective intoxication, of drinking six or more drinks at a time (6+), and of negative consequences (mainly hangover symptoms). Additionally, annual consumption and measures of intake per occasion were used.
Findings: Annual consumption, overall frequency of drinking and frequency of drinking 6+ were highest in Denmark and lowest in Norway. Frequency of subjectively defined intoxication was highest in Finland. There it was clearly higher than the frequency of drinking 6+, whereas in Denmark the contrary was observed. Finnish and Norwegian men and Danish women reported the largest quantities drunk per occasion. Results on 6+ frequency and the prevalence of negative consequences, with annual consumption held constant, suggest that Danes have the least concentrated drinking pattern. With annual consumption held constant, Norwegians report as high a frequency of intoxication, as do Finns.
Conclusions: The relations between subjective and more objective measures of episodic heavy drinking vary considerably between the Nordic countries. The results suggest that the definition, acceptability and experience of intoxication vary even when a set of relatively homogeneous countries are compared.