Irish binge drinking rate highest in EU - poll

Thu, Apr 22, 2010, 01:00

IRELAND HAS the highest rate of binge drinkers in the EU, with nearly one in five reporting they drink five or more alcoholic beverages in a single sitting.

A total of 19 per cent of Irish people said they had five or more drinks on average in a single sitting, according to a Eurobarometer survey published by the European Commission.

This figure, which is more than three times the EU average of 6 per cent, compares with binge-drinking rates of just 1 per cent in Bulgaria, 2 per cent in Greece and 3 per cent in Portugal.

Binge drinking is defined in the survey as having five or more alcoholic drinks in one day.

The commission’s director in Ireland, Martin Territt, said it was accepted that drinking cultures differ across Ireland. “Worryingly the Eurobarometer shows that in Ireland people are still binge drinking and are not responding to the fact that alcohol is the third-biggest cause of premature death in the EU,” he added.

Some 27 per cent of Irish people surveyed said they consume alcohol two or three times a week, while 7 per cent said they drink more than four times a week.

On the question of abstention, 24 per cent of Irish respondents said they had not had an alcoholic drink in the past 12 months. This abstention rate is ahead of countries like the UK (19 per cent), the Czech Republic (18 per cent) and Denmark (7 per cent).

According to the survey, 25 per cent of European respondents aged 55 and over reported drinking alcohol on a daily basis, compared to 3 per cent of 15-24 year olds. However, one-quarter of young people aged 15-24 drink five or more drinks once a week, compared to just one in 10 people aged 55 and over.

More than half of people aged 25 and over said they would not drink less alcohol if the price increased by 25 per cent.

The link between alcoholism and health problems is well known among survey respondents in Ireland: 91 per cent know of the link with depression and 88 per cent know alcohol can increase heart disease. However, just over one-quarter of EU citizens (27 per cent) were able to answer correctly when asked what the legal blood alcohol limit for driving is in their country.

Jamie Fortescue, director of the European Spirits Organisation, said Europeans lack basic information regarding alcohol.

“Many Europeans don’t know that a standard glass of wine, whisky or beer contains the same amount of alcohol; whether they should drink when pregnant; or what a safe limit is to drive. These are some of the knowledge gaps that Europe needs to bridge in order to bring about a change in behaviour,” he said.

The survey of 1,008 people in Ireland was conducted by TNS/ MRBI in October 2009.