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Where in France do people admit to drinking too much alcohol?

More than a quarter of respondents in two western regions of France say they exceed recommended drinking guidelines

Excessive alcohol consumption has reduced across the board, but some groups have seen an increase in drinking numbers Pic: Vershinin89 / Shutterstock

More than one-in-five French adults drink more than the recommended amount of alcohol, according to new data.

The figures, released by France’s public health authority Santé Publique France, showed 22% of people exceed France’s ‘low-drinking guidelines’, which are meant to promote moderate alcohol consumption.

This figure changes regionally, however, with those from the Brittany, Pays de la Loire and Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes regions drinking far more than those from the Île-de-France, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, and overseas regions. 

The overall number of people exceeding the guidelines is lower than previous studies from the health body (for the years 2017-2020), which saw 23.7% of people admit to drinking too much.

The report was published on Tuesday (June 13) and uses the latest data from 2021, which was when France had its second Covid 19 lockdown, a possible reason for the drop.

An ‘encouraging’ fall in numbers 

The almost 2% decrease between 2020 and 2021’s figures is seen as a positive sign. 

After three years of static figures, the fall shows that national information campaigns against excessive alcohol consumption have been successful.

The study concludes that the “awareness of lower-risk drinking guidelines appears to be improving” in the country.

More than 83% of people questioned who admitted to drinking alcohol in the previous week said they believe you should not exceed two glasses of alcohol per day.

In 2020, 18.8% of people admitted to drinking more than two glasses of alcohol per day in the last week, but in 2021 this number fell to 17.8%. 

Read also: Why France’s alcohol-free cocktail boom is ‘not just a trend’

Differences between regions and genders 

The biggest fall in excessive consumers was in men of all age groups, younger male drinkers (aged 18 - 24), older female drinkers (aged 65 and above), and those with higher average incomes.

Although there was an overall drop in numbers, some specific categories saw a rise in the number of drinkers.

The number of 18-24-year-old women drinking above the guidelines increased from 17.7% to 19.3%, and, for men aged 75 and above, the number increased from 38.1% to 41.2% – the highest percentage of excessive drinkers on the list. 

Regionally, Pays de la Loire saw the highest number of people drinking above the guidelines, with 27.9% overdrinking, followed by Brittany (26.9%) and Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes (24%). 

Guadeloupe had the lowest overall number (11.9%), and in metropolitan France, the region with the lowest number was Bourgogne-Franche-Comté (18.%). 

Read more: People in France are living longer in good health, study finds

Is Covid the cause? 

The decrease in numbers could be a knock-on effect of Covid measures in 2021, which saw bars closed for extended periods of the year or facing restrictions on opening hours. 

The first lockdown in 2020 saw a number of age groups increase alcohol consumption, but the latest data saw many return to pre-pandemic drinking levels, said the study. 

Some groups, however, “have retained behaviours that are more harmful to their health, exacerbated by a socio-economic situation that is still unfavourable,” it adds. 

Despite the overall encouraging signs, the study believes work must be continued in the field of alcohol awareness – around a quarter of French people still believe drinking small amounts of wine is more effective in reducing the risk of cancer than not drinking at all. 

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