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Despite drop, Ireland still has the third highest number of pubs per capita in the world

A new report looks into drinking behaviours and accessibility in Ireland.

DESPITE OVER AN 8% drop in the number of pubs over the over 10 years, Ireland still has the third highest number of pubs per capita in the world, according to a new study.

There were a total of 7,486 pub licences issued or renewed in Ireland in the period 2022-23, an 8.2% decrease since 2012-13. Despite this decrease Ireland remains high on the list of pubs per head of population.

The country listed with the highest number of pubs per capita is Slovakia (officially the Slovak Republic), while second is Hungary. 

The figures are contained in a new overview study by the Health Research Board titled “Alcohol: availability, affordability, related harm, and policy in Ireland”.

The aim of the overview is to examine how much people are drinking, as well as the health and social consequences of alcohol use. It also reviews the measures that are being taken to reduce alcohol use and prevent harm.

The biggest decline in pub numbers were in rural areas. While there was no change in Dublin, and a small rise in Meath, all other counties saw a decrease in the number of pub licences issued or renewed in 2022–23 compared with 10 years earlier.

The biggest percentage decrease was Monaghan, which saw a drop of 16.1%, while Roscommon declined by 15.7% and Waterford fell by 12.7%. Nationally, there is one pub for every 684 adults.

According to the data, while the number of licences issued or renewed for pubs fell in the 10 years to 2022-23, the number of off-licences rose by 7.7% in the same period.

Off-licences could be supermarkets, standalone off-licences, garage forecourts, convenience stores or anywhere else that sells alcohol to be consumed off premises.

In total, since 2012–13 the number of liquor licences issued has increased by 4.6%

According to the study, 73% of the population live within 300 metres of a liquor licence (and there are more licensed premises in deprived areas compared to affluent areas).

Consumption in Ireland

The overview also found that a total of 42,266,785 litres of pure alcohol was sold for consumption in Ireland in 2023.

This amount is then divided by the number of people aged 15 or older in the population to give per capita alcohol use in 2023 of 9.9 litres of pure alcohol per person, a 2.9% decrease from 2022, (based on 2022 population estimates).

According to the HRB, this equates to 37 bottles of vodka (70cl), 104 bottles of wine or 400 pints of beer a year.

Taking into account people who abstain, the HRB said that alcohol consumption among drinkers aged 15 years and was 14.1 litres of pure alcohol per person in 2023.

“This is considerably more than the Department of Health’s stated aim to reduce per capita alcohol consumption in Ireland to 9.1 litres,” the overview states.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD’s) average recorded per capita alcohol consumption was 8.6 litres per adult in 2021.

When compared to the most recent figures for OECD countries, Ireland ranked 16th out of the 38 included countries for per capita alcohol consumption.

Commenting on the findings in a statement, Anne Doyle, HRB research officer and lead author of the report, said that it was “the first time that we have looked at accessibility to alcohol in detail”.

“Using geospatial analysis, we also found there is a greater density of licensed premises in deprived communities.

This is significant because evidence shows that people in deprived areas are more likely to experience alcohol-related harms, despite consumption being lower or equal to affluent areas.

Dr Mairéad O’Driscoll, Chief Executive of the HRB, said in a statement:

“The increase in the number of people choosing not to drink and the decline in consumption per capita is positive.

However, the way many people drink is harmful which is reflected in alcohol-related hospitalisations and deaths, as well as high numbers of people receiving treatment for problem alcohol use.