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Many Irish people are in denial about their drinking habits, new research finds

Two in three regular binge drinkers failed to recognise their consumption of alcohol was at an excessive level.

MANY IRISH PEOPLE are in denial about their drinking habits with a large share of binge drinkers not believing they are consuming dangerous levels of alcohol, according to new research.

A study by the Health Research Board found results from alcohol consumption surveys in the Republic did not match up with alcohol sales figures.

The HRB said the finding suggested that people tend to under-report or underestimate how much alcohol they drink.

The study revealed that two in three regular binge drinkers failed to recognise their consumption of alcohol was at an excessive level.

The report’s lead author, HRB research officer, Deirdre Mongan said the finding was concerning as such a pattern of alcohol consumption increases the risk of drinkers experiencing alcohol-related harm to their health.

In addition, one third of people who were dependent on alcohol described themselves as “light” or “moderate” drinkers.

“In Ireland we live in a culture where alcohol is everywhere and binge drinking has been normalised compared to other countries,” said Dr Mongan.

“We found there was low awareness among drinkers with harmful drinking patterns that they consumed alcohol in this way.”

Dr Mongan said many people just do not realise they are drinking at that level.

She added: “The study highlights the need for more interventions and labelling on alcohol products to increase awareness of the harm it can cause.”

Researchers examined alcohol consumption patterns of over 7,000 individuals from data contained in the HRB’s 2014/15 Drug Prevalence Survey, particularly in relation to their self-awareness about their drinking habits.

They found almost half of all drinkers had a hazardous or harmful pattern of drinking with more than 1 in 10 drinkers dependent on alcohol.

Harmful drinking is defined as consuming approximately six standard alcohol drinks in one sitting, while hazardous drinking or alcohol dependence is defined as experiencing alcohol cravings or a lack of control in relation to alcohol consumption.

Denial about drinking patterns appeared more prevalent among women with only one in 10 women who were alcohol dependent describing themselves as heavy drinkers compared to one in five males.

However, individuals who engage in risky single occasion drinking were more likely to be male, young and single.

Dr Mongan said the results of the research suggested patterns of alcohol use in Ireland are problematic.

She said they also showed that older people and those with lower educational attainment were less likely to be aware of their hazardous or harmful consumption of alcohol, while there is a cohort of younger drinkers who are aware of their dangerous drinking patterns.

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Seán McCárthaigh
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