More than half of teenagers who had started drinking alcohol at 13 years of age said they were either provided alcohol by their parents, or took it from their home, according to a new report.
Some 42 per cent of children who were drinking at 13 years of age said their parents provided them with alcohol. A further 10 per cent of 13-year-olds said they had taken alcohol from their home.
The report from the Health Research Board (HRB), published on Thursday, reviewed recent studies into patterns of alcohol consumption.
Overall it found little had changed in the past five years, as Ireland still had a “high level” of alcohol consumption, and similar rates of alcohol-related harm.
Anne Doyle, co-author of the report, said there was no indication of what quantities of alcohol parents were providing to young teenagers surveyed. "We don't know if it's putting the extra bottles of WKD in the supermarket trolley… whether it's one bottle or six," she said.
In many cases parents were supplying their children with alcohol in the belief it was “safer” that they were drinking at home, rather than elsewhere, she said.
Ms Doyle said this was problematic as it had the effect of “normalising alcohol” for young teenagers, which led to harmful consumption habits later in life.
The number of younger teenagers who were drinking alcohol had fallen in recent decades, when current rates were compared with the 1990s, she said.
Teenage girls were more likely than boys to be provided with alcohol by parents or guardians, the report said. As teenagers got older they were more likely to buy alcohol in supermarkets, off-licences, or drink in pubs and clubs.
Spirits were the most popular type of alcoholic drink among schoolchildren of all ages, followed by cider, and then alcopops, the report said.
Less than 1 per cent of teenagers reported having bought alcohol online, despite fears expressed in recent years about the potential growth of this practice.
When it came to adults, the report said wine had been the most popular type of alcohol consumed during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Consumption rates of wine had increased by 12 per cent, as people swapped the pint of beer in the pub for the glass of wine on the couch at home.
Consumption of beer fell by 17 per cent last year, with pubs and bars shut for large periods since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite the lengthy pub closures, the total consumption rates of alcohol fell by only 6.5 per cent last year, compared with 2019, due to increased off-licence sales, the report said.
Young men aged 25-34 were the most likely to be classed as “hazardous drinkers”, and more likely to die from alcohol poisoning, the report said.
On average, Ireland saw three alcohol-related deaths a day, and the majority of those who died were younger than 65. Those aged 50-64 accounted for the highest number of alcohol-related deaths each year, the report found.