More than half of Irish men binge drink once a month, study finds

Alcohol intake in Ireland has increased since 2010 despite falling in many western countries

Most Irish men, and 40 per cent of the population overall, are classified as heavy episodic drinkers in a new global study of alcohol consumption.

Alcohol intake in Ireland has increased since 2010, even as it has fallen in many other western countries, the study published in the Lancet finds.

Some 54 per cent of Irish men, and 26 per cent of women, were classified in the study as heavy episodic drinkers. This is defined as having at least one occasion of 60g of pure alcohol intake over a 30-day period.

Globally, the study finds targets to reduce harmful alcohol use are likely to be missed as intake worldwide increases. Falls in alcohol intake in many parts of Europe and Russia are being more than offset by increased use in developing countries.


Intake grew from 5.9 litres of pure alcohol a year per person in 1990 to 6.5 litres, across the 189 countries surveyed.

Alcohol intake in Ireland is about twice this global average, varying from 13.6 litres in 1990 to 12.3 litres in 2010 and 13.2 litres in 2017.


Rates of abstention in Ireland have dropped over the period, from 19 per cent in 1990 to 9 per cent in 2017, suggesting the rest of the population is drinking less individually overall.

The estimates in the study suggest that by 2030 half of all adults in the world will drink alcohol, and almost a quarter (23 per cent) will binge drink at least once a month.

Alcohol is a major risk factor for disease, and is causally linked to more than 200 diseases, in particular non-communicable diseases and injuries.

The drinks industry contends that binge -drinking is on the decline

"Before 1990, most alcohol was consumed in high-income countries, with the highest use levels recorded in Europe. However, this pattern has changed substantially, with large reductions across Eastern Europe and vast increases in several middle-income countries such as China, India and Vietnam. This trend is forecast to continue up to 2030 when Europe is no longer predicted to have the highest level of alcohol use," says study author Jakob Manthey, from Dresden University in Germany.

The drinks industry contends that binge -drinking is on the decline. Spirits Europe said the modelling study was contradicted by real-world evidence of a reduction in problem alcohol use.

"More and more people are drinking responsibly across the world. The World Health Organisation's own evidence shows it. This study is only a projection while the WHO's evidence shows binge-drinking is down across the globe," said Spirits Europe's director general Ulrich Adam.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times