Alcohol Control and Suicide Prevention Policies in Nordic Countries


University of Turku, Department of Psychiatry, Finland


The policies regarding alcohol control vary between the Nordic countries. Denmark has a liberal policy whereas in Finland and Sweden sale of alcohol is more restrictive. The sale of strong beer, wines and distilled alcohol is only allowed in state-run monopolies. The age limit for alcohol sale is in Denmark off premises 15 years whereas in Finland and Sweden the limit is 18 years. Alcohol advertising is restricted, whereas in Denmark advertising is not regulated by law. Finland has by far the highest rate of suicides among the Nordic countries and prevalence of alcohol disorders and physical alcohol diseases. Finland carried out a suicide prevention project between 1987 and 1996. Firstly, there was a large psychological autopsy study that showed the high prevalence of depressive disorders and alcohol use among persons who committed suicide. However, the treatment prevalence was low. In the second phase, interventions were planned, during the third phase they were carried out and lastly, there was an evaluation of the successfulness of the project. Doctors were trained to recognize and treat depression, access to services was improved and professionals in many occupations were likewise educated. It was found that the rate of suicides decreased significantly during the implementation phase. Suicide rate has also declined in other Nordic countries. Official project approved by parliaments have launched in Denmark, Norway and partly in Sweden. The Finnish project has been the most comprehensive including schools, workplaces, housing, military and health and social services. Overall decline of suicide rates has been considered to reflect the socio-economic development, stability of the region and well-functioning healthcare.