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The Finnish Intoxication Hannu Ruonavaara The Finns and drinking Finns get intoxicated mainly by drinking alcohol The use of illegal drugs is by no means inexistent but it is still much less important than the use of alcohol Though foreigers often think otherwise…

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the finnish intoxication

The Finnish Intoxication

Hannu Ruonavaara

the finns and drinking
The Finns and drinking
  • Finns get intoxicated mainly by drinking alcohol
  • The use of illegal drugs is by no means inexistent but it is still much less important than the use of alcohol
  • Though foreigers often think otherwise…

… the Finns' use of alcohol is not in European comparison extremely high

  • People in many other nations use alcohol in average even more than Finns
the distinctive feature
The distinctive feature?
  • The Finnish way of drinking: Finns drink relatively seldom but large quantities with the intention of getting drunk
  • This pattern of "binge drinking" has for a long time been considered typical for Finns' alcohol use
  • Social historian Matti Peltonen: Partly a myth about non-civilised Finns:
    • well established even before there was any systematic information about Finns' drinking behaviours
    • surveys of attitudes towards alcohol show no clear differences between the Nordic countries
alcohol use in finnish history
Alcohol use in Finnish history
  • A book by sociologist Matti Virtanen: Änkyrä, tuiske, huppeli (1982) – all words about different degrees of intoxication
  • In old agricultural society alcohol use was restricted to seasonal celebrations  occasions that were considered completely different from everyday life
  • Christmas, weddings, hunting, harvesting
  • In history the drink was usually beer, before the 16th century only beer
  • Drinking was always collective
  • Drinking on workdays was not usual
celebrations drinking
Celebrations & drinking
  • (1) Celebrations where it was allowed and even expected that people drink and possibly become intoxicated, for example, weddings
  • (2) Celeberations where drinking was allowed but getting drunk was not considered appropriate, for example, funerals
  • In modern Finland the distinction persists:

(1) Big, "carnivalistic" holidays: First of May (Vappu), Midsummer Night (Juhannus), New Year's Eve

(2) Celebrations concerning some milestone in life: graduation, doctoral degree, anniversary, etc

drinking in modern everyday life
Drinking in modern everyday life
  • In modern Finland drinking has become more an everyday phenomenon: a bottle of beer while watching television, a quich rush hour drink with colleagues in a bar, wine with food, etc
  • The number of drinking situations has increased quite a lot but the norm "you should not get drunk" applies to more and more of such situations
  • Most drinking situations in Finland quite mundane
the wet generation
The "Wet Generation"
  • Until the 1960s abstinence from alcohol use was relatively common and there were large differences in alcohol use between the sexes
  • This changed with the Wet Generation (name invented by sociologist Pekka Sulkunen): a birth cohort born during and soon after the Second World War
  • The Wet Generation had a different attitude towards alcohol use than the previous ones
  • Abstinence became much less usual than before and female drinking became more widespread
  • Less moderate drinking patterns were adopted
more about the wet generation
…more about the Wet Generation
  • Between 1968 and 1974 consumption of alcohol doubled in Finland
  • Reasons, apart from changed attitudes: liberalisation of alcohol policy, increasing prosperity and leisure time
  • Post-war generations started drinking at an earlier age than before
  • The WG was the first generation of a new, contemporary drinking culture
gender differences in drinking
Gender differences in drinking
  • Historically the norm "it is not allowed to get drunk" and the exceptions to it apply for the male drinking company
  • Female drinking in Finland is to a large extent a late 20th century phenomenon: before that drinking was not usual among females
  • Female norms and customs in drinking are a rather recent development
female drinking culture
Female drinking culture
  • Females still drink less than males though the difference is diminishing
  • Qualitative case research on female drinking customs:
  • Similarities with male drinking customs: intoxication etc.
  • Differences: the central role of the hostess who has prepared all the offerings – except the drinks
  • Eating as a ritual that emphasises the sociability
  • Talking is very central: relations and children
  • Verbal overcoming of the male dominance
  • When males enter, the solidarity is easily broken
the mythology of male drinking
The "mythology" of male drinking
  • An analysis of the mythical structure of the drinking scenes in Finnish films 1933-1972:
  • The male drinking party is removed from the relations with women
    • disappointment with women the cause of drinking
    • drinking party vs. the controlling woman
    • woman as object of desire or agent of control

2. The empty solidarity of the male drinking party

    • no real opening up or contact between the drinking men
    • solidarity by rituals of the drinking company

3. The cosmic loneliness of the drunken man

    • the man is left to meet the big questions of life alone
the finnish alcohol policies
The Finnish alcohol policies
  • Have been traditionally very restrictive
  • Prohibition 1919-1932: backed by strong popular opinion
  • By the late 1920s the popular support had diminished
  • Smuggling and illegal sale of alcohol became very widespread and difficult to control
  • The use of illegal alcohol was almost at the same level than the use of alcohol before the Prohibition
  • In the referendum 71 per cent of voters supported abolishing Prohibition, 28 per cent maintaining it and one per cent liberalising light alcohol beverages
alko the state alcohol monopoly
ALKO – the State alcohol monopoly
  • The state wanted to keep the alcohol business in its hands: the manufacturing, import and distribution of all alcoholic beverages  ALKO
  • Buyer control especially after the 2nd World War (abolished in the 1950s)
  • Liberalisation of alcohol policies in the 1960s: III beer from the ALKO to the ordinary shops!
  • Contributed to the increase of alcohol use
  • The strange double role of ALKO: it sold alcohol at the same time as it sought to control and restrict its use
the breaking monopoly
The breaking monopoly
  • With the EU membership in 1995 Finland had to abolish the ALKO monopoly of import, export, production and distribution
  • Different branches of ALKO business were separated from each other
  • Control functions and alcohol-related health education were separated from ALKOs activities
  • Liberalisation of access to alcohol, opening hours, import, production, etc
the key policy instrument price
The key policy instrument: price
  • Alcohol is severely taxed in Finland: the level of taxation maybe the highest in Europe
  • Finnish alcohol policy has relied on price control: by regulating the price of alcohol, the extent of alcohol-related problems can be regulated
  • Some research says that price control works!
  • When prices go down, alcohol-related deaths and other problems go up, and vice versa
  • Why? Problem drinkers and risk drinkers start to consume more
  • A very small proportion of drinkers consume the largest share of alcohol in Finland
the latest developments
The latest developments
  • Use of alcohol has increased considerably in recent years  created quite a lot of concern
  • Lower prices, liberal import regulations, liberalisation of opening times, improved incomes, etc.
  • The total annual consumption of pure alcohol was about 10,5 litres per inhabitant in 2005, quadrupled in four decades
  • Increase in the consumption of wines  "European" drinking habits exist alongside with the "Finnish way of drinking"
  • Tightening of the alcohol policy