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Over 80% of Irish adults drink alcohol, and the rate is set to increase

A new study warns that worldwide alcohol consumption is on the increase.

Image: Shutterstock/wavebreakmedia

A TOTAL of 84% of Irish adults drink alcohol, with Ireland having one of the highest per capita consumption rates in Europe. 

A new study also shows that the percentage of Irish people who drink alcohol is projected to increase by 2030, while the per capita consumption will decrease slightly.

The data comes from a new modelling study published today in The Lancet, which tracks global alcohol intake between 1990 and 2017, and estimates what consumption will be like in 2030.

The study warns that worldwide alcohol consumption is on the increase, and that targets to reduce harmful use will likely be missed. 

The study points out that as a result of increased alcohol consumption and population growth, the total volume of alcohol consumed globally per year has gone up by 70% – from 20,999 million litres in 1990 to 35,676 million litres in 2017.

Intake is going up in low- and middle-income countries, which is a leading cause of the increases. 

The study estimates that by 2030 half of all adults will drink alcohol, and almost a quarter (23%) will binge drink at least once a month. 


Since 1990, there have been significant increases of alcohol consumption in low- and middle-income countries. China, India, and Vietnam, for example, have seen consumption jump significantly. 

Between 2010 and 2017, consumption increased by 34% in southeast Asia. 

Traditionally, European countries always had the highest level of alcohol consumption, but this has been changing over the last three decades. By 2030, Europe is forecast to no longer have the highest level of consumption. 

Moldova is the country with the highest alcohol intake (15 litres per adult per year), and Kuwait had the lowest (0.005 litres per person per year).

Between 2017 and 2017, there were decreases in consumption by 12% (from 11.2 to 9.8 litres). This was mainly as a result of decreases in former Soviet Republics such as Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia. 

In other areas – like African, American, and Eastern Mediterranean regions – intake levels remained similar between 2010 and 2017. 


In Ireland, total per capita alcohol consumption increased from 12.33 litres of pure alcohol per adult in a year to 13.19 litres between 2010 and 2017. The percentage of current drinkers also rose from 82% of adults to 84%. 

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Meanwhile, the percentage of adults who commit to lifetime abstinence dropped from 11% to 9%. 

Projections to 2030 estimate that per capita consumption will drop slightly and percentage of the population that drinks will rise to 86%. 

Commenting on the findings, study author Jakob Manthey, TU Dresden, Germany, said based on the data the WHO’s aims of reducing the harmful use of alcohol by 10% by 2025 would not be reached globally. 

“Instead, alcohol use will remain one of the leading risk factors for the burden of disease for the foreseeable future, and its impact will probably increase relative to other risk factors,” he said. 

Implementation of effective alcohol policies is warranted, especially in rapidly developing countries with growing rates of alcohol use.

Alcohol is a major risk factor for disease, and is causally linked to over 200 diseases, in particular non-communicable diseases and injuries.

You can read the study in full here

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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