Alcohol is harmful - to the user, the people around them, and to society. What do we know about problematic use of alcohol? And what new knowledge to we need to prevent alcohol abuse? Researchers are developing knowledge for professional practitioners to help them introduce preventive measures and provide effective treatments.

Knowledge about alcohol and alcohol prevention

Almost half of minors drink occasionally and 9% of adults drink heavily or to excess, even though drinking alcohol is harmful. It is a risk factor for cancer, for example. Research by the Trimbos Institute has shown that people have little awareness of this risk.

A great deal of knowledge has been developed over the past few years on issues such as problematic alcohol consumption. Now, the focus is on preventing alcohol abuse. Together with the Trimbos Institute and experts from the field, we are identifying what knowledge is still lacking. We are asking researchers to develop this knowledge, and giving a boost to the knowledge infrastructure so as to improve the sharing of knowledge about alcohol prevention.

Alcohol prevention: developing and sharing knowledge

What new knowledge is needed about alcohol and prevention of alcohol abuse? And how can we reinforce the knowledge infrastructure? A call is issued in April 2023 for projects to address these questions, and to boost the knowledge infrastructure. This will tie in with existing networks, to consolidate knowledge sharing. 

The Alcohol Prevention Knowledge Agenda by the Trimbos Institute’s Centre of Expertise on Alcohol lists areas where knowledge is still lacking (knowledge gaps). ZonMw’s call will be based on this knowledge agenda. The gaps concern knowledge of matters like policy measures, breaking the social norm, and the role of parents in alcohol use by young people.

Research on alcohol marketing

Problematic alcohol consumption is harmful, so alcohol advertising must not contribute to this behaviour.

Researchers have systematically collated existing knowledge about alcohol marketing and identified where knowledge is lacking. This exercise showed that, generally speaking, alcohol marketing leads to more alcohol consumption, including among minors. Alcohol marketing (on television, social media etc.) is very prevalent in the Netherlands, and minors are often exposed to it.

The Advertising Code for Alcoholic Drinks provides a basis for ensuring alcohol advertising is as responsible as possible.  STIVA (Foundation for Responsible Alcohol Consumption) and the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport have commissioned a study to establish whether there are enough clear frameworks for advertisers, and whether there is enough support for the measures.

Sex and gender differences in treatment of alcohol addiction

Many alcoholics relapse within six months of starting treatment. What sex and gender differences exist when it comes to relapsing? And what sex- and gender-specific predictors are there for the treatment of addiction? In future, treatment could be better tailored to these.

Problematic alcohol use among elderly people: what interventions work?

We have an ageing population, and problematic alcohol consumption is more common among elderly people. They struggle with pain, loss of loved ones and loneliness, or they might start drinking more to fill their time once they have retired. An elderly person’s body does not break down alcohol as effectively, and they often combine alcohol with medication, which is harmful to health.

How can problematic alcohol consumption among elderly people be reduced using effective elements of existing interventions?

Dealing with alcoholic parents

Parents with an alcohol addiction can be helped, but focusing on the underlying problems is more effective than simply discussing how much they consume. This approach also provides a way of helping their children, too.

Prevention research

By funding prevention research, ZonMw helps to provide innovative knowledge about prevention and health promotion, so that everyone can live as healthily as possible in a healthy environment. Our focus is on lifestyle, the living environment and socioeconomic health inequalities.


Met preventieonderzoek zorgt ZonMw voor innovatieve kennis over preventie en gezondheidsbevordering, zodat iedereen zo gezond mogelijk kan leven in een gezonde leefomgeving. Dit doen we door in te zetten op leefstijl, leefomgeving en sociaaleconomische gezondheidsverschillen.