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09.06.2016 | Original Paper | Ausgabe 4/2017 Open Access

The European Journal of Health Economics 4/2017

Frequency and intensity of alcohol consumption: new evidence from Sweden

The European Journal of Health Economics > Ausgabe 4/2017
Gawain Heckley, Johan Jarl, Ulf-G Gerdtham


There is an increasing body of evidence that the intensity in which alcohol is drunk is of greater concern than the frequency or overall quantity consumed. This paper provides an extensive analysis of the demand for alcohol as measured by total quantity, frequency, and intensity. A unique large sample of cross-sectional data from Sweden 2004–2011 allows reduced-form alcohol demand equations to be estimated for beer, wine, and spirits, split by alcohol drinking pattern (average vs. binge drinkers) and gender. Results find a negative beer excise rate effect for participation and frequency, and positive effect for intensity. The effect was stronger for binge drinkers. Generally, the results also show a positive socioeconomic (income and education) gradient in frequency demand and a negative gradient in the intensity demand. Female wine drinkers show a positive socioeconomic gradient in both frequency and intensity. The findings highlight the complexity of this policy space. Tax increases appear to reduce frequency but raise intensity consumed. The more educated and higher earners drink more in total, but less intensely when they do and this is likely to explain in part why poor health is concentrated amongst lower socioeconomic status individuals.

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