Most Irish adults unaware of alcohol guidelines, survey finds

HSE recommends limit of 11 standard drinks for women and 17 for men each week

In response to the Drinkaware survey, 31 per cent of adults said they would like to drink alcohol less often.  Photograph: Johnny Green/PA Wire

In response to the Drinkaware survey, 31 per cent of adults said they would like to drink alcohol less often. Photograph: Johnny Green/PA Wire

 

The majority of Irish adults are not fully aware of the low-risk guidelines for alcohol, according to a new survey.

Just two to three per cent of adults correctly identified the low-risk weekly alcohol guidelines for men and women, according to research carried out by Behaviour & Attitudes for alcohol industry-funded group Drinkaware.

The HSE’s guidelines recommend up to 11 standard drinks (110g pure alcohol) for women and up to 17 standard drinks (170g pure alcohol) for men per week, with at least two alcohol-free days.

The guidelines state that alcohol should be spaced out over the week and should never be saved up to drink on one occasion.

Almost three-quarters of people surveyed believe drinking to excess is just part of Irish culture while 45 per cent said everyone drinks to excess at some stage and that it is no big deal.

Despite this, nearly three-quarters of those surveyed agreed that they have become more aware of how excessive drinking affects their health and well-being.

Almost two-fifths of people have made positive changes to their drinking habits, according to the survey, which involved 1,000 Irish adults. More than third of respondents cited physical health/fitness as the strongest influence in making positive changes in relation to their drinking habits. Meanwhile, 31 per cent of adults said they would like to drink alcohol less often.

‘Worrying’

Dr Liam Twomey, chief medical officer at Drinkaware, said the research revealed some “worrying” trends.

“The vast majority of Irish adults still aren’t fully aware of the low-risk guidelines for alcohol. Without this information, people may be regularly drinking at a level which could put their health at significant risk,” Dr Twomey said.

“Bank holiday weekends are a prime time for alcohol misuse and for binge-drinking episodes.

“ Even when people aren’t ‘drinking to get drunk’, we see evidence of all-day drinking at parties, BBQs or family gatherings. Even drinking moderately over a long period of time can amount to excessive drinking when calculated over the whole weekend,” he said.

Niamh Gallagher, chief executive of Drinkaware, said there was still more education needed around understanding and identifying guidelines. “We want people to understand the risks so they can keep health problems associated with alcohol to a minimum.”

Ahead of the August Bank Holiday weekend, Drinkaware has suggested some changes people can make if they are drinking alcohol, especially at home.

These include: alternate each drink with water to reduce dehydration; always use a measure and never free-pour spirits; never top up a wine glass – always finish one glass before refilling and avoid rounds.