The latest alcohol overview from Ireland's Health Research Board (HRB) reveals that despite a decline in pubs, Ireland still ranks third-highest in the world for the number of pubs per head.

The report further found that three in four people in Ireland live within walking distance of a premise licensed to sell alcohol.

The report also highlights that the decline in the number of pubs in Ireland matches the increase in off licences.

The newly published alcohol overview - "Alcohol: availability, affordability, related harm, and policy in Ireland" - is the fifth in a series that examines data and trends on alcohol use and related consequences over time in Ireland. 

Anne Doyle, HRB Research Officer and lead author of the report, said: “This is the first time that we have looked at accessibility to alcohol in detail.

"Using geospatial analysis, we also found there is a greater density of licensed premises in deprived communities.

"This is significant because evidence shows that people in deprived areas are more likely to experience alcohol-related harms, despite consumption being lower or equal to affluent areas.”  

Among the key findings of the report was that the average annual consumption for people aged 15 years and over in 2023 was 9.9 liters of pure alcohol.  This equates to 37 bottles of vodka (70cl), 104 bottles of wine, or 400 pints of beer. 

Almost one in three people aged 15 years and over in Ireland do not drink at all, the report found, with an increase in abstainers from 25% in 2018 to 30% in 2022. 

The report found that harmful and hazardous drinking patterns are impacting people’s health and health services in Ireland.

Alcohol use is the eighth leading cause of death in Ireland, with one person dying every day due to alcohol-related liver disease, and more than one in three road user fatalities had been drinking prior to the incident.  

One in five emergency department hospitalizations are due to alcohol and almost 19,000 hospitalisations are attributable to alcohol alone in 2021.

Alcohol is still the substance for which people in Ireland seek treatment the most. The number of cases receiving treatment for alcohol use in 2022 was higher than that of cocaine and cannabis combined. On a positive note, 45% completed their treatment course and more than half of people were alcohol-free when leaving treatment. 

Ireland is ranked eighth out of 30 countries for the proportion of household income spent on alcohol.  Although alcohol has increased in price, it has kept in line with inflation.  

There were 5,527 incidents of drink-driving, and 9,917 incidents of drunkenness recorded on PULSE in 2022. 

Dr Mairéad O’Driscoll, HRB Chief Executive, said  “The increase in the number of people choosing not to drink and the decline in consumption per capita is positive.

"However, the way many people drink is harmful which is reflected in alcohol-related hospitalizations and deaths, as well as high numbers of people receiving treatment for problem alcohol use.”   

Legislation to address alcohol use in Ireland continues to be implemented. In the past three years, there have been restrictions on advertising, separation of alcohol from other products in supermarkets and shops and the introduction of Minimum Unit Price. By 2026, Ireland will also have the most comprehensive health warning labels on alcohol products seen in the world.  

Dr. O'Driscoll concluded: “The recent implementation of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act will require time to take effect.

"By continuing to monitor trends over time, the HRB can review the impact of new legislation and inform policy responses that continue to reduce harm and support recovery.”  

The full report can be downloaded here.