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Research Summary

Risky Single-Occasion Drinking Appears to Be the Norm for Young Swiss Men

In Western countries, risky single-occasion drinking (RSOD)* is an important risk factor for mortality and morbidity among teenagers and young adults. To determine the prevalence of RSOD among Swiss men in this age group, researchers conducted a survey of 19-year-old French-speaking men taking part in a 2-day medical assessment as part of Switzerland’s mandatory army recruitment process. Over 25 weeks, 4116 attended the medical assessment, and 3536 agreed to complete the survey. Past-year alcohol consumption among participants was as follows:

  • 7.2% had abstained from alcohol.
  • 17.2% reported lower risk drinking (neither RSOD nor weekly risky drinking**).
  • 63.4% reported at least 1 day with consumption of ≥10 drinks.
  • 75.5% of those who drank alcohol reported RSOD at least once a month.
  • 69.3% of the alcohol consumed among the entire sample was consumed during RSOD episodes, and 49.2% was consumed on drinking occasions including ≥10 drinks.
  • steady weekly drinking was infrequent: 17.1% reported drinking >3 days per week in the past year, and 27.6% reported drinking >3 days per week in the past week. Most drinking occurred on weekends (daily average weekend consumption = 7 drinks).
*consumption of 6 or more drinks per drinking occasion (in this study, 1 drink = 10 g alcohol; the US standard drink =14 g alcohol).
**consumption of >21 drinks per week (15 US standard drinks per week).


Risky single-occasion drinking is very common among 19-year-old men in Switzerland, where the legal purchasing age for alcohol is 18 for spirits and 16 for beer and wine. Most of the alcohol was consumed during weekend RSOD episodes, making this population especially at risk for negative consequences on these occasions. Clinicians should counsel young men on RSOD and its consequences. Nicolas Bertholet, MD, MSc


Gmel G, Gaume J, Faouzi M, et al. Who drinks most of the total alcohol in young men—risky single occasion drinking as normative behaviour. Alcohol Alcohol. 2008;43(6):692–697.