East Germans drink more alcohol, eat better | News | DW | 13.03.2020
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East Germans drink more alcohol, eat better

Germans in former East Germany engage in risky alcohol consumption more than their western peers do — but they also eat more nutritiously, a scientific study has found. Researchers also did a south-north comparison.

Germans living in the east and south of Germany more frequently consume high-risk quantities of alcohol than those living elsewhere, German researchers have found.

The findings were part of an English-language report published Friday in the BMC Public Health journal. Researchers from various German science and medical institutes had examined to what extent smoking, unhealthy nutrition, at-risk alcohol consumption and physical inactivity — together referred to as SNAP — varied in Germany in North-South and East-West comparisons.

While the results showed eastern Germans to engage in more at-risk alcohol consumption than western Germans, they also revealed lower rates of unhealthy nutrition among the eastern populace. There was no difference in unhealthy nutrition levels between north and south.   

No regional variations were found in either comparison in daily smoking or low physical activity.

Read more: Bad food choices kill more people than tobacco

History, folk festivals play a role

"Historical differences in alcohol consumption between East and West Germany might explain the east-west gradient for at-risk alcohol consumption," the researchers wrote, pointing to high levels of per capita alcohol consumption in former East Germany and the social role it played.

Karte Deutschland vor der Wiedervereinigung EN

The researchers used the boundary between the former East and West Germany as their line of comparison

For the difference in at-risk alcohol consumption between north and south Germany, researchers cited more frequent overall consumption of alcohol in the south, as well as the prevalence of alcohol-heavy folks festivals, such as Oktoberfest, and the role of public consumption in spaces such as beer gardens.

The researchers concluded that measures for reducing risky alcohol consumption should take the higher prevalence of such activities in southern and eastern Germany into account. In contrast, measures supporting healthy nutrition should focus on German as a whole, as the country overall had relatively unhealthy practices.

Read more: A German superfood for every month of the year

The SNAP categories are lifestyle risk factors related to health issues such as heart disease, cancer and chronic respiratory disease.

The east-west comparative axis was based on the former border between East and West Germany, while the north-south axis was based on population size, urbanity, among other things.  One state was therefore included in both comparison categories.

Many sociodemographic and economic differences continue to exist between the former East and West, while the southern German states also have more robust economic indicators than the northern ones.

The researchers used data gathered in 2015 from 9,204 participants between the ages of 18 and 64.

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