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Open Access Research article

Institutional trust and alcohol consumption in Sweden: The Swedish National Public Health Survey 2006

Johanna Ahnquist12*, Martin Lindström3 and Sarah P Wamala24

Author Affiliations

1 Swedish National Institute of Public Health, Stockholm, Sweden

2 Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

3 Department of Clinical Sciences, Malmö University Hospital, Lund University, Lund, Sweden

4 Stockholm Centre of Public Health, Stockholm, Sweden

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BMC Public Health 2008, 8:283  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-8-283

Published: 13 August 2008



Trust as a measure of social capital has been documented to be associated with health. Mediating factors for this association are not well investigated. Harmful alcohol consumption is believed to be one of the mediating factors. We hypothesized that low social capital defined as low institutional trust is associated with harmful alcohol consumption.


Data from the 2006 Swedish National Survey of Public Health were used for analyses. The total study population comprised a randomly selected representative sample of 26.305 men and 30.584 women aged 16–84 years. Harmful alcohol consumption was measured using a short version the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), developed and recommended by the World Health Organisation. Low institutional trust was defined based on trust in ten main welfare institutions in Sweden.


Independent of age, country of birth and socioeconomic circumstances, low institutional trust was associated with increased likelihood of harmful alcohol consumption (OR (men) = 1.52, 95% CI 1.34–1.70) and (OR (women) = 1.50, 95% CI 1.35–1.66). This association was marginally altered after adjustment for interpersonal trust.


Findings of the present study show that lack of trust in institutions is associated with increased likelihood of harmful alcohol consumption. We hope that findings in the present study will inspire similar studies in other contexts and contribute to more knowledge on the association between institutional trust and lifestyle patterns. This evidence may contribute to policies and strategies related to alcohol consumption.