Drinking culture in Copenhagen – how damaging is it?

By Jess Johnson and Kara Yang

Danish Parliament attempts to combat teen binge drinking by changing legal age of buying alcohol. “Our knowledge is getting better, but our drinking culture is not”, says the professional leader of an alcohol interest organisation.  

It is no secret that the drinking culture is paramount in Denmark, especially in the student hub city Copenhagen. However, experts believe this culture needs to be modified to be safer, so that young people are not exposed to alcohol related health issues.

Sundhedsstyrelsen, The Danish Health Authority, is issuing a change in guidelines in relation to the purchasing of alcohol by under-18-year-olds in Denmark. Since 2010, 16-year-olds and above have been legally permitted to buy alcohol in shops. However, parliamentary majority are in favour of raising the age to 18 and it is in place for a new legislation.

Medical professionals and alcohol awareness organisations have long been in favour for a change in guidelines, following scientific research suggesting that teenage drinking is getting out of hand. Alkohol & Samfund, an alcohol interest organisation based in Copenhagen, recently released statistics showing that 74% of 15 to 16-year-olds in Denmark have drunk alcohol in the past month, in a shocking contrast to the European average of 47% in the same age category.

Michael Jensen, the professional leader of Alkohol & Samfund, expressed his concern for young Danes and their exposure to this culture. He says: “our neighbouring countries do not have the same problem amongst young people, so we must act accordingly and change the age requirements to reduce the likelihood of alcohol related damages and accidents”, as further studies show that 57 young people were admitted to Danish hospitals for alcohol overconsumption in 2020.

Thomas Chemnitz, Alkohol & Samfund’s press advisor, says “the youth have always been influenced by drinking culture in Denmark, Copenhagen especially is the hub for it” as it has the most visible concerns. He hopes that “politicians will soon wake up to the true effects of teen vulnerability” as drinking from a young age can lead to serious cases of alcoholism.

Another main point stated by Jensen was adjacent with responsibility. He believes this change will “place more responsibility on parents and how they educate their children, regarding their safety when alcohol is involved” in order to avoid more accidents and fatalities.

The majority of the Danish Parliament agrees with raising the age requirement to 18 years old. Stinus Lindgreen, member of the Radikale Venstre party and Health advisor, advocates for the age raise and believes “it will be a solid long-term solution”, in which the country needs. He said, “this plan has been in the works for a while, as organisations have pushed for a change by sharing new statistics, knowledge and research surrounding alcohol issues”.

Lindgreen and his assistant, Alexander Hegelund, concur that there is an “obvious problem in our youth, as alcohol has been rooted in the social culture from a young age, ultimately forming skewed long-term relationships with alcohol”. However, their agenda is not to stop people from enjoying drinking, rather they want to “educate to avoid a continuation in prominent and permanent health risks”.

The legislation is yet to be settled, as parliament is waiting for every party to be in favour and agree. However, experts suggest it will be confirmed soon. Thus, there will hopefully be a decrease in binge drinking and injury statistics will lessen.