Almost 40% of Irish adults engage in binge drinking

Overall consumption rates are falling, World Health Organisation report says

Kathryn D’Arcy, director of Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland:   “Average per adult consumption is now over 25 per cent lower than the peak of 2001.  We are consuming alcohol at pre-1990 levels and are fast approaching EU norms.” Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Kathryn D’Arcy, director of Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland: “Average per adult consumption is now over 25 per cent lower than the peak of 2001. We are consuming alcohol at pre-1990 levels and are fast approaching EU norms.” Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Thu, May 15, 2014, 10:03

Ireland remains one of the worst countries in the world for binge drinking, although overall consumption rates are falling, according to a report by the World Health Organisation.

Two-thirds of Irish male drinkers and one-third of women engaged in “heavy episodic drinking” over the previous month, the report says. This is defined in the study as the consumption of at least six standard drinks – such as a small glass of wine or a half-pint of beer – in one sitting.

Overall, almost 40 per cent of all adults here engaged in binge drinking, putting Ireland second out of 194 countries studied, with only Austria recording a higher incidence. In Britain, the rate of binge drinking was 28 per cent.

Alcohol Action Ireland responded to the report by calling for the swift implementation of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill to reduce health risks from alcohol. “How alcohol is consumed can be as important as the quantity consumed and binge drinking is especially dangerous to health,” chief executive Suzanne Costello said. “Alcohol increases people’s risk of developing more than 200 diseases, including liver cirrhosis and several forms of cancers. As it is not only the volume of alcohol consumed, but also the pattern of drinking over time that affects the risks of harm, a large amount of Irish people are putting themselves at risk of health harms due to their binge drinking.”

The Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland pointed out that the data used in the report dates back to 2010. It said that per-adult alcohol consumption had declined by 8.5 per cent since then. “Average per adult consumption is now over 25 per cent lower than the peak of 2001,” said Kathryn D’Arcy of the federation. “We are consuming alcohol at pre-1990 levels and are fast approaching EU norms.”

Ms D’Arcy acknowledged the report was correct in highlighting high levels of binge drinking. She said the industry was seeking to work with the Government to effect long-term change, starting with the sale of cheap alcohol, a ban on price-based advertising and introducing statutory codes to regulate the merchandising of alcohol.