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Dublin: 16 °C Thursday 30 October, 2014

How alcohol affects Ireland in 4 stark graphs

A major HSE report yesterday looked at the harm alcohol causes in Irish society – and it made for grim reading.

Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

THE HSE YESTERDAY released a major report into the harm caused by alcohol in Ireland.

The study made for stark reading: people cited family problems, physical assaults, money problems, vandalism, and drunk driving, all caused by people in their lives drinking too much.

Ireland’s attitude to alcohol has been much documented. While the number of people who abstain from drinking completely is high – 13 per cent of the population, according to a 2011 study – the way in which many people drink is problematic, with Irish adults binge drinking more than adults in any other European country.

These four graphs from yesterday’s report show the effect of misuse of alcohol and the harm that it has caused to people in Ireland.

1. The prevalence of alcohol-related harm

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(For a larger version of this graph click here)

This graph breaks down alcohol-related harm by gender and by age. It shows that the biggest problem by far was physical assault. More than 1 in 5 men aged between 18 and 29 have experienced a physical assault involving alcohol. The next most common form of harm was family problems, with 20.8 per cent of women in the same age bracket reporting them.

The graph breaks down five specific issues – family problems, being a passenger with a drunk driver, property vandalised, physical assault and money problems. The results found that people aged 18 to 29 were most likely to have experienced harm as a result of  alcohol, while people aged over 50 were least likely to report problems.

Almost all of the figures decrease over time, except for two: women who had had property vandalised increased, and money problems also increased over time.

2. Alcohol harm in the workplace

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(For a larger version of this graph click here)

Alcohol-related harm in the workplace also registered highly, again particularly among younger people, who reported on the negative consequences caused by their co-workers’ heavy drinking. The biggest issue was with people reporting that their ability to do their job was affected by their co-workers’ drinking, with 15 per cent of men and 8 per cent of women aged 18-34 reporting that this was the case.

A lot of people have also been forced to work extra hours due to their colleagues’ drinking. Once again, young men were the most affected by this (11 per cent), closely followed by young women (8.9 per cent).

3. Alcohol harm caused to children

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(For a larger version of this click here)

The figure for how children were affected by their parent(s) drinking made for particularly grim reading. Unsurprisingly, children whose parents engaged in regular risky drinking – which was defined as people who drank more than 75 grams of alcohol per month – were most likely to have been harmed, with 11.2 per cent of children verbally abused.

Almost 7 per cent of these children had been left in an unsafe situation, while 3.4 per cent had been physical abused, and another 5.5 per cent had witnessed violence. More than 10 per cent of the children had experienced one or more harms as a result of someone else’s drinking when their parents were regular risky drinkers.

4. How does Ireland compare?

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(For a larger version of this graph click here)

Given all these figures, it’s worth asking how Ireland compares to other countries. The HSE study looked at two other major studies which were conducted in the US and in Canada, and compared the Irish results to them. In each case, the Irish figures were higher – in some cases up to three or four times higher – than the figures in the US and Canadian studies.

13.8 per cent of Irish respondents reported family problems as a result of alcohol consumption, for example, compared to just 5.4 per cent in Canada and 3.4 per cent in the US.  The most gaping difference came in property vandalisation, with 9.1 per cent of Irish respondents reporting it, compared to just 2.6 per cent in Canada and 1.8 per cent in the US.

The figures were replicated in the workplace and when the effects on children were examined, with Ireland again reported figures higher than international comparisons.

Read: How much does alcohol abuse affect others in Ireland? A lot, says a new report >

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