The way we drink in Ireland
What we think of as ‘normal’ drinking can influence the decisions we make about alcohol, and affect what we believe is acceptable or harmful.
We drink a lot…
Although the amount we drink has dropped in recent years, we are still one of the heaviest drinking nations in the world. The amount we drink has more than doubled since 1960 and though our alcohol consumption has declined from its peak in the early 2000s, we still drink at high levels and have high levels of alcohol harm as a result, including three alcohol-related deaths per day.
…We don’t think we do
We underestimate the amount we drink. A comprehensive survey of alcohol consumption in Ireland by the Health Research Board (HRB) found that we significantly underestimate how much we drink and many of us mistakenly perceive ourselves to be ‘light’ or ‘moderate’ drinkers.
We drink in a risky way
It’s not just what we drink, it’s how. In Ireland, we tend to consume a lot of alcohol in single drinking sessions. The HRB found that 75% of our alcohol is consumed as part of a binge drinking session, defined as drinking six or more standard drinks in one session.
We binge drink more than nearly all other countries and because this type of drinking is so commonplace in Ireland, we really don’t see the problem.
Binge drinking is the most harmful way to drink – it causes short-term problems like arguments, hangovers and accidents, increases the risk of becoming dependent on alcohol and puts us at higher risk of many health problems.
We’re encouraged to drink
“You need a pint after a hard day” … “Settling down with a glass of wine is the best way to relax” … “There’s no fun unless you’re drinking” … “Our big events and celebrations should revolve around alcohol." These are messages we hear every day.
We often tend to accept this way of thinking about alcohol, encouraged by powerful alcohol marketing campaigns. We often think less about the other side of drinking and the risks of alcohol – the friend asleep in the corner or getting sick on the street, the arguments, accidents, violence, injuries regrets, hangovers and lost weekends.
Harmful drinking is taken as the norm
We also can tend to dismiss the problems alcohol can cause as affecting ‘other people’ such as young people or people who are dependent on alcohol, despite the fact that harmful patterns of alcohol consumption are commonplace throughout the population and our drinking causes a wide range of serious problems for individuals, families and communities.
In fact, the HRB found that a very large number of people in Ireland – an estimated 1.35 million - drink in a way that causes harm, to themselves or other people. While the problems of alcohol dependence and liver damage are well known, there are lots of other problems caused by alcohol that aren’t so visible - from minor health symptoms, diseases and accidents we may not associate with alcohol, to mental health problems like anxiety and depression and social problems like child neglect, assaults, domestic violence and public order offences.
Benefits of drinking less
Clearer thinking to clearer skin, from a healthier bank balance to a healthier you, more energy, less weight, fewer lost weekends and more fun, less regrets, better sleep and happier relationships – there are lots of reasons to cut down or take a break from alcohol. And the benefits will not just be felt by you, but also by the people around you.
Find out more about the benefits of drinking less and get tips for how to start.
For more information on alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harm in Ireland please visit http://alcoholireland.ie/facts/
Read the latest HSE report on our attitudes to drinking and drinking patterns: Social norms around drinking in Ireland