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People in Ireland drink, on average, the equivalent of 40 bottles of vodka a year

Every person in Ireland aged 15 and over drinks, on average, 10.8 litres of pure alcohol each year, according to new figures.
Apr 15th 2021, 6:00 AM 39,690 102

EVERY PERSON OVER the age of 15 in Ireland drinks, on average, more than 10 litres of alcohol per year, according to new research.

The Health Research Board (HRB) has found that while alcohol consumption levels in Ireland have plateaued since 2013, people’s consumption remains “significantly higher” than the government’s 2020 target of no more than 9.1 litres of pure alcohol per person a year.

Figures released today show that in 2019, on average, every person in Ireland aged 15 and over drank 10.8 litres of pure alcohol a year – the equivalent of either 40 bottles of vodka, 113 bottles of wine or 436 pints of beer.

As one in four people in Ireland don’t drink at all, actual consumption rates among those who do drink would be much higher than this.

Ireland ranks ninth among OECD countries in terms of alcohol consumption and eighth in the world when it comes to monthly binge drinking, defined as consuming more than six standard drinks in one sitting, the HRB report notes.

The research also found the following:

  • Men aged 25-34 years are more likely to be classed as hazardous drinkers and are more likely to present with alcohol-related self-harm and suffer death due to poisoning
  • Older adults aged 65 and over tend to drink less; however, of those who do drink, one-third are hazardous drinkers, with over 40% of men over 65 engaging in monthly binge drinking
  • Three in five drinkers over 60 years who take medication that interacts with alcohol have reported that they continue to drink while on such medication

Alcohol consumption during the pandemic

The report also includes an analysis of preliminary data on alcohol consumption during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Data released by Revenue last month has shown that consumption decreased by 6.5% during the last year. The HRB said this is “a relatively small decline, considering that pubs have been closed for the majority of the year”.

Beer consumption decreased by 17% in 2020 compared to 2019, while wine consumption increased by 12% in the same period, the figures show.

“While we have not seen a rise in consumption in recent years, the amount we drink and in particular how we drink continues to put us at risk of serious harm,” Dr Deirdre Mongan, co-author of the report, stated.

“Binge drinking is still widespread, especially among young people. Almost one in four men and one in ten women report that over the past year they have drunk more in a single sitting than would be suggested as a maximum weekly limit by low-risk guidelines.

“However, it appears many of us are unaware that our habits may be harmful: more than half of Irish drinkers are classified as hazardous drinkers, yet 74% consider themselves to be a light or moderate drinker.”

Mongan added that it is “still too early to tell the full impact of the change in drinking habits due to the pandemic, all signs point to substituting drinking in on-trade premises with drinking at home”.

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Drink-related deaths 

The HRB report also notes that alcohol-related harm leads to three deaths per day in Ireland and it is a “growing burden on the hospital system”.

The report states: “1,094 alcohol-related deaths were recorded in 2017 – an average of 3 deaths per day. Over 70% of those who died of alcohol-related causes were under 65 years old, highlighting the high levels of premature mortality associated with alcohol.

The number of discharges from hospital that relate specifically to alcohol increased from 9,420 in 1995 to 18,348 in 2018 – an increase of 94.8%.

The report also found that over 82% of schoolchildren have consumed their first alcoholic drink by age 17, with the proportion of children reporting to have been ‘really drunk’ on at least one occasion ranging from 5% of 13-year-olds to 62% of 17-year-olds.

Parents were the most common source of alcohol: 35% of 16-year-olds reported getting alcohol from their parents; 19% at a pub, bar or club; and 14% at supermarket, shop or off-license.

Dr Mongan said: “The average boy aged 17 is more likely to drink beer and to purchase it in pubs or bars, while the average 17-year-old girl is more likely to drink alcopops and to get their alcohol from their parents.”

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Órla Ryan

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