Three people die from alcohol a day in Ireland, report shows

Irish drinkers consume 445 pints a year as State ranks fourth in OECD for consumption

Three people a day die from drinking alcohol in Ireland as the health costs from the drug continue to rise, a new report shows.

Hospital discharges solely attributable to alcohol have doubled in the past 20 years, and alcoholic liver disease has risen three-fold, according to the study from the Health Research Board.

There were over 17,000 drink-related discharges from hospitals in 2013 and this absorbs 10 per cent of the public health budget, it says.

In 2014, Irish drinkers consumed an average of 11 litres of pure alcohol - equal to 29 litres of vodka, 116 bottles of wine or 445 pints of beer.


This is 21 per cent higher than the Department of Health’s target to reduce consumption to 9 litres per head and places Ireland fourth in the OECD, behind Estonia, France and Lithuania.

"This report clearly illustrates how Irish people's drinking patterns are harming their health, increasing public health care costs and negatively impacting productivity," said Dr Graham Love, the board's chief executive.

“If we want to address these harms as a society, then it is important that evidence-based public health responses are used, like those proposed in the new Public Health Alcohol Bill.”

It is not just what Irish people drink but the way we drink that causes harm, the study says. More than 50 per cent drink too much in one sitting or exceed recommended weekly limits.

The average length of stay in hospital for alcohol-related conditions has grown steadily, from 6 days in 1995 to 10 days in 2013, as the illnesses involved become more complex.

Alcohol is a factor in one in 10 cases of breast cancer and one in three presentations for self-harm.

The report says an estimated 167,170 people suffered an alcohol-related assault.

The number of people entering treatment for alcohol addiction fell 12 per cent between 2011 and 2013, to 7,549. Cases were mostly male and the average age was about 40.

The study says this drop may reflect a true decrease in the number of cases, reduced levels of participation or under-reporting, or a combination of these factors.

Alcohol-related issues accounted for almost 4 per cent of all hospital beds days in 2013, more than double the level in 1995.

Lead author Dr Deirdre Mongan said the fact that alcoholic liver disease was rising fastest among 15-34 year-olds are a real public health concern as the disease usually develops after a number of years of harmful drinking, and so was normally seen in older people.

The report estimates the cost of the problem to hospitals at €1.5 billion, equivalent to €1 out of every €10 spent on public health in 2012. This excludes the cost of emergency cases, GP visits and alcohol treatment services.

The number of people who lost their job due to alcohol use is estimated at 5,315 and the cost of absenteeism is estimated at over €41 million in 2013.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.