”We have changed from a ‘spirit culture’ to more of a ‘beer-and-wine culture’. We have made our alcohol consumption more ‘continental’,” said criminologist Sven Granath, from the National Council of Crime Prevention (Brottsförebygganderådet, Brå) to the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) daily.
The connection between drinking and violent crime has always been strong in Sweden, according to Granath.
During the period when Swedes have been more prone to heavy drinking, levels of violent crime have risen accordingly.
”Swedes drank rather a lot during the first half of the 19th century. And during the same time, more people per capita were killed through violent crime,” Granath told the paper.
During the second half of the century the state started regulating alcohol consumption of the population by outlawing home distilling and establishing controlled outlets for alcohol sale.
According to Granath, these measures led to a decrease in both murders and manslaughter in Sweden.
But in more modern times, the connection between alcohol and violent crime has weakened, according to Granath.
In the 1980s the number of incidents of alcohol-related murder and manslaughter levelled out without consumption changing much, while consumption increased in the 1990s at the same time as violent crimes decreased.
One of the reasons for this development is the change in Swedish drinking habits to a more continental style of drinking, according to Granath. Swedes are more likely to have a drink every day than binge-drinking on the weekend.
However, there is no denying that there is a strong connection between alcohol consumption and crime and that both perpetrators and victims are often heavily intoxicated, said Granath.
”If you look at statistics of murder and manslaughter, close to 50 percent of both victims and offenders are very drunk at the time of the offence,” Granath told the paper.