It's science! And it's not just Swedes who Italians can drink under the table. It's also Latvians, Lithuanians, and Estonians.
A Swedish behavioural researcher studied 1000 imbibers from each of the aforementioned countries and found that in the Baltic countries and Sweden, drinking led to both social (such as violence) and health (such as liver disease) problems much more often than in Italy.
Jonas Landberg, a researcher at the Centre for Social Research on Alcohol and Drugs at the Stockholm University found (as he suspected) that people in Italy drink regularly but more slowly. It's part of normal life and people aren't usually drinking with the goal of getting plastered. In the other countries, people more often drink to get drunk. So at the end of the day folks might drink the same amount, but people in Italy are less frequently wasted.
One potentially confounding factor in the study is the Italian attitude towards drinking's influence over their lives as compared with the other countries.
"For example, in a country like Sweden, where drinking is seen as problematic, alcohol often gets blamed for problems when someone has been drinking, while on the other hand, people may be less likely to blame problems on alcohol in a country like Italy, where alcohol is not regarded as problematic, but rather as a part of day-to-day life," said Landberg said in a press release.
The results will be published in the January 2012 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. Just in case that's not on your regular reading list, I've hit up Dr Landberg with some questions. Yes, I will inquire about the Irish, stop asking! And we already know Americans drink to get hammered, but I'll ask him about our antics as well.