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Istituto Superiore di Sanità
EpiCentro - Epidemiology for public health
Epidemiology for public health - ISS

2021 Alcohol Prevention Day

An estimated 66.8% of all Italians aged over 11 years consumed alcohol in 2019. Of these 36 million people, over 11 million consumed alcohol daily (including over 8 million who had risky drinking behaviours). About 3.8 million people engaged in binge drinking, by consuming more than 6 drinks in a single occasion, and there were 43,148 emergency department admissions for alcohol detoxification. Over 670,000 people exhibited harmful drinking patterns and would have required clinical management of their alcohol use disorders (AUDs). However, only 65,387 individuals with alcohol dependence received treatment from the healthcare services.


These are the main findings of the report prepared by the National Observatory on Alcohol (Osservatorio Nazionale Alcol - ONA) of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS) using the information submitted to the Ministry of Health by the alcohol prevention and treatment services (2019 data). These data were presented during the 2021 Alcohol Prevention Day (APD).


Alcohol consumption in Italy in 2019: an overview

During 2019, 13.4% of men and 6.2% of women aged over 11 years (about 3.3 million people) consumed alcohol excessively on a daily basis. They regularly exceeded daily low-risk drinking limits: zero units of alcohol (UA) for young people under 18, one UA for women and adults over 65, and two UA for men aged 18 to 65 years. The worst affected groups were 16-17 year-olds (42.2% of males and 39.2% of females) and over-65s. More than 8.2 million people were risk drinkers, and over 670,000 were “high-risk” drinkers who would have required clinical management of their alcohol use disorders. However, in 2019, only 10% of people already dependent on alcohol received the treatment they needed through the national health service.


The number of people drinking on an empty stomach (one of the most harmful drinking behaviours) has been growing over the years and, in 2019, reached about 17 million (40.8% of men and 21% of women). Most of these individuals were aged 18 to 44.


Binge drinking is becoming increasingly common, especially among young people. It involves consuming several units of alcohol over a short period of time, i.e. over 6 drinks (where one drink corresponds to one standard UA containing 12 grams of pure alcohol), irrespective of sex, in a single occasion. In 2019, 3.8 million people (10.8% of men and 3.5% of women aged over 11 years) engaged in binge drinking. The percentages of binge drinkers were highest among young people aged 18 to 24 (20.6% of males and 11% of females) and lower among older adults.


2021 APD conference

The data published in the ISTISAN 21/7 report “Alcohol epidemiology and monitoring in Italy and its Regions. An assessment by the National Observatory on Alcohol of the impact of alcohol consumption for the implementation of the activities of the National Alcohol and Health Plan. 2021 report” were presented at the 2021 Alcohol Prevention Day (APD) conference on 14 May 2021. Supported and funded by the Ministry of Health, the event, now in its twentieth year, was held and promoted in close cooperation with the Italian Alcohology Society (Società Italiana di Alcologia - SIA), the Italian Association of Local Alcohol Support Clubs (AICAT) and Eurocare.



Publication date: 24 May 2021