More than half of Irish 18-75 year-olds 'harmful drinkers'

By Cormac O’Keeffe

More than 1.35 million Irish 18-75 year-olds are “harmful drinkers” and in excess of 150,000 people are alcohol dependent.

The scale of the problem is even greater among young people, with 75% of 18-24 year olds drinking in a harmful way, with 15% of them dependent on the drug - more than twice the rate for all adults.

The nation’s drinking habits means that we spend an estimated €51m every week on alcohol - despite the fact that a fifth of adults do not even drink.

The disturbing findings are contained in a major piece of research, the National Alcohol Diary Survey, conducted by the Health Research Board.

The diary survey is the first study of its kind in Ireland and lifts the lid on how households are consuming alcohol.

Almost 6,000 people in nearly 4,000 homes took part in the research, conducted between July and October 2013.

The survey found:

* 54% of 18-75 year old consumers of alcohol were classified as harmful drinkers - equating to between 1.3m and 1.4m people

* 75% of all alcohol consumed was taken in binge drinking (defined as three or more pints or most of a bottle of wine in one session)

* Based on expenditure patterns, Irish people spend an estimated €50.6m every week on alcohol

* 3,230 work or study years were lost through alcohol related illness in the year prior to the study

The report said the findings of the survey show that people in Ireland “consume alcohol in an unhealthy pattern” and that “harmful drinking is the norm in Ireland”.

It said that a considerable proportion of people who define themselves as light or moderate drinkers are binge drinking and do not realise they are consuming alcohol in an “unhealthy manner”.

Dr Graham Love, Chief Executive at the Health Research Board, said: “What this report really shines a light on is the pattern of harmful drinking which raises serious concerns for public health.

"Based on the figures in the report, more than 150,000 people are dependent drinkers, more than a 1.35 million are harmful drinkers and 30% of people interviewed say that they experienced some form of harm as a result of their own drinking.”

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