Alcohol, heat and carelessness – a dangerous combination at Midsummer!

Finns tend to consume the highest amount of alcohol during public holidays. In addition to that, there tends to be an extended period during summer when consumption is higher, in comparison to the rest of the year. This year, the theme of the National Accident Day will be the connection between intoxicants and accidents. The National Accident Day will take place in August, on Friday the 13th.

Around 2,000 Finns die every year because of accidents – one in six while intoxicated*. Furthermore, intoxicated individuals account for a particularly significant proportion of those killed by drowning or a fire. Over the past few years, roughly half of these victims were intoxicated when the accident occurred.

‘Inebriation is often one of the reasons behind injuries caused by accidents. A study on drinking habits** estimated that over a 12-month period, 57% of the population had been exposed to risks linked to drunkenness due to their own drinking, which equals approximately 2,400,000 people,’ says Senior Researcher Janne Härkönen from the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

However, there have been some positive changes: during the 21st century, the proportion of accidents and poisonings of all alcohol-related deaths has decreased considerably.

Holidaymakers’ delights and dangers: fire, water and alcohol

People often spend their Midsummer night at a friend’s summer house or some other less familiar setting. Therefore, it makes sense to ensure that all the guests know the quickest way out in case of an emergency. Every room where people sleep should have a fully working fire alarm.

‘You should keep your wits about you when dealing with live flames, because sparks can fly quite a distance from a bonfire. Moreover, you should be careful with any live fire or a BBQ, because even a small burn can hurt so much that it is guaranteed to ruin the holiday mood,’ says Safety Communications Specialist Juha Hassila from the Finnish National Rescue Association.

Dealing with an emergency situation can be difficult even when sober – and potentially impossible when drunk. Even blood alcohol content of less than 0.5 per mille will hinder a person’s ability to pay attention and make them clumsier, which increases the risk of accidents. As a person becomes increasingly inebriated, their reaction speed decreases and body control deteriorates while their self-confidence and risk-taking increase.

According to the Finnish Swimming Teaching and Lifesaving Federation (FSL), six people on average drown every Midsummer. `The three most dangerous elements during the summer months are alcohol, heat and carelessness. Alcohol is one of the main factors that increase the risk of accidents. Add heat and carelessness into the mixture, and you are looking at a perfect storm,’ says Specialist Niko Nieminen from FSL.

Photo: Eeva Anadunin/Finnish Red Cross

10 tips for a safe Midsummer

Everyone can have a fire and water safe Midsummer. The key in reducing the risk of accidents is to recognise dangers and prepare for them. Please read through this Midsummer checklist to avoid unnecessary accidents:

• Download the 112 app and make sure you know where you are, whether on land or water.
• Check that your boat is seaworthy and that your summer house is fire safe, and make sure that they both have the correct safety equipment.
• Always wear a lifejacket when on the water.
• Remember that alcohol should not be consumed while on the water.
• Keep an especially close eye on children near water and fire. Learn the safety rules of being near fire or water with your children.
• Make a realistic assessment of your swimming skills and only swim accordingly. Always swim with another person and along the shoreline, so that help is close at hand and you are able to reach the bottom with your feet, if necessary.
• Keep a constant eye on the bonfire and any other live flames. Remember that you must ask the landowner’s permission to make a fire and that no fires are permitted while a forest fire warning is in effect.
• Have some water or fire extinguishing equipment at hand when a Midsummer fire is lit.
• Place working fire alarms in all the rooms where people will sleep.
• Remember to use common sense and make clear assessments – having the right attitude will increase your safety.

More information

Senior Researcher Janne Härkönen, Intoxicants and Tobacco, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, tel. 029 524 7168, firstname.lastname@thl.fi
Specialist Niko Nieminen, Finnish Swimming Teaching and Lifesaving Federation, tel. 010 3407332, firstname.lastname@suh.fi
Safety Communications Specialist Juha Hassila, Finnish National Rescue Association, tel. 040 7587846, firstname.lastname@spek.fi

Links and statistics

*Official Statistics of Finland (SVT): Causes of death [online publication].
Growth in number of accidental deaths halted in 2019.
**Mäkelä, P. et al. (2018). Näin Suomi juo: suomalaisten muuttuvat alkoholinkäyttötavat. THL, Teema 29.
A summer house fire safety quiz (in Finnish)
About water safety (in Finnish)
Drowning statistics – Finnish Swimming Teaching and Lifesaving Federation