Find help and online resources for:

Mental health problems


20 years ago, Icelandic youth were among the most intoxicated in Europe. Today they have the lowest adolescent substanc use of all European countries. So, what has Iceland done to bring about this incredible change?  

 Image: Screenshot from the video (BBC)


Here you read five of the moves they have taken. This article is based on an informative video from BBC News.

In the video (see below), we learn about five measures that Iceland took that appeard to have a great impact on young people's drug habits, and which contributed to Icelandic youth changed from being the ones who used drugs the most in Europe to now having the least substance use. 

BBC reports:

The teenagers in Iceland were completely out of control in the 1980s and 90s. That was a big problem 20 years ago!

In 1998, as many as 42% of 15-16-year-olds reported that they had been drunk. Today the figure is down to 5%! 

In 20 years, Reykjavik went from being the worst in Europe in terms of smoking, drinking and drug use among young people, to becoming the best. 


Here are five of the specific measures


  1. They introduced a curfew

    Children under the age of 16 had to be home by ten o'clock in the evening. In some places, parents guarded the streets, sending children home if they did not comply with the ban.

  2. Parents signed a statement

    Parents agreed to set rules that would apply to their children, for example: do not let the children drink alcohol, and that there should be more time for the family to be together when they are at home.

    - We are more protective of the children today than we have been before, says one of the parents.

    - In the past, there was greater freedom and people were not as aware of the risks and dangers as we are now. 

  3. Kept the kids active

    Every year, all children receive a "check" of around 400 USD to spend on activities after school. 

    - We like to train 5-6 times a week after school, at half past five, says one of the young people.

    In addition to football, the young people say that they go swimming, volleyball, horse riding, and much more.

  4. Based on research

    The teenagers fill out a questionnaire every year, called "Youth of Iceland". 

    We measure different aspects of their lives, says one of the researchers, Inga Dora Sigfusdottir.

    It includes their relationships with parents and friends, drug use, and how they feel.

    This questionnaire has been a key to reducing drug use among young people. They get the results from the survey to the local community, which thus gets good clues as to what there is a need for measures. 

  5. Has got the politicians on the field 

    The whole thing could never have gone without a large-scale investment, also from a political point of view. Every year, Reykjavik spends more than 80 million USD on youth activities.

    - The first thing you have to do is decide to base what you do on evidence and research, says the mayor of Reykjavik, Dagur Eggertson.

    - Secondly, you have to finance it, and to get people to talk to parents, talk to schools, talk in youth clubs, and with everyone who has to be involved.

    Researcher Inga Dora Sigfusdottir points out:

    - Let us remember that children do not want to use drugs. They want to be able to live happy, healthy lives. 


The model has begun to spread

Based on the good experiences in Iceland, a number of European countries have begun to open their eyes - and today the "Youth in Iceland" model runs in 35 European cities. At home in Iceland, the model is often cited as an important reason why many music bands in Iceland have had success - and not least the Icelandic national team.


Here you can watch the video from BBC


Here is another video from the Icelandic model


Read more:

Also read