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Many Irish people 'may be in denial' about the amount of alcohol they drink

Only a third of regular binge drinkers in Ireland recognise their drinking as harmful.

Image: Shutterstock/VDB Photos

A NEW STUDY by the Health Research Board (HRB) has found that a large proportion of Irish people “may be in denial” about the amount of alcohol they drink.

The research, which was based on data from Ireland’s Drug Prevalence Survey in 2014/2015, found that those who most accurately estimated how much alcohol they drink are those deemed low risk drinkers.

In contrast, only a third of regular binge drinkers were found to recognise their drinking habits as harmful to their health.

Binge drinking is defined by health experts as six or more standard drinks in one session, equivalent to three or more pints of beer or six or more measures of spirits.

Similarly, one in three people who were classed as alcohol dependent - defined as experiencing alcohol cravings and a lack of control when drinking – considered themselves ‘light’ or ‘moderate’ drinkers.

And half of those who participated in the study who were alcohol dependent described themselves as ‘light’ or ‘moderate’ drinkers who ‘sometimes binge drink’.

The study is published in the journal BMJ Open, and involved interviews with over 7,000 people across Ireland from the age of 15 and up.

All respondents were asked to indicate how much they drank and describe their self-perceptions of their own drinking.

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Although overall trends among women and men were similar, only one in ten women who were alcohol dependent were found to describe themselves as heavy drinkers, compared with one in five men.

Lead researcher Dr Deirdre Mongan described it as concerning that so many Irish people with alcohol dependence believed themselves to be light or moderate drinkers.

‘The results of the study highlight that patterns of alcohol use in Ireland are problematic, and that a large proportion of Irish people may be in denial about the potential harmful effects of their drinking behaviour on their health,” she said.

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