Ireland’s Health Research Board (HRB) has found that the country’s alcohol consumption remains at high-risk levels, with Irish people drinking on average 10.9 liters of pure alcohol per person every year.

Although alcohol consumption levels in Ireland have plateaued since 2013, people in Ireland still consume significantly higher amounts of alcohol than the government’s 2020 target of no more than 9.1 liters of pure alcohol per person a year.

According to a new report from the HRB, Irish people aged 15 and over drank an average of 10.9 liters of pure alcohol per person in 2019 — the equivalent of 436 pints of beer.

However, one in four people in Ireland abstain from drinking, so the actual consumption rates of those who do drink would be much higher than this estimate.

“While we have not seen a rise in consumption in recent years, the amount we drink and in particular how we drink continues to put us at risk of serious harm,” said Dr. Deirdre Mongan, Research Officer at the HRB and co-author of the report. 

“Binge drinking is still widespread, especially among young people. Almost one in four men and one in ten women report that over the past year they have drunk more in a single sitting than would be suggested as a maximum weekly limit by low-risk guidelines. However, it appears many of us are unaware that our habits may be harmful: more than half of Irish drinkers are classified as hazardous drinkers, yet 74% consider themselves to be a light or moderate drinker.”

The study found that males aged 25- 34 years were more likely to be classed as hazardous drinkers and were also more likely to suffer harm and death due to alcohol poisoning.

Various liquor bottles backlit behind bar. Credit: iStock

Various liquor bottles backlit behind bar. Credit: iStock

And while adults aged 65 and over tend to consume less alcohol, for those in that age group who do drink, one-third are considered hazardous drinkers. Over 40 percent of men over age 65 engage in monthly binge drinking.

The report also looked at changes to alcohol consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to data released in March 2021, alcohol consumption decreased by 6.5 percent during the past year. This is considered a relatively small decline considering that pubs have been closed for the majority of the year. However, while beer consumption decreased by 17 percent in 2020 compared to 2019, wine consumption increased by 12 percent.

“While it is still too early to tell the full impact of the change in drinking habits due to the pandemic, all signs point to substituting drinking in on-trade premises with drinking at home. This is concerning in particular for households with children, as research shows that children exposed to parental drinking at high levels are vulnerable to adverse outcomes,” said Dr Mongan.

In 2017, there were 1,094 alcohol-related deaths — an average of three deaths per day. Over 70 percent of those who died were under 65 years old.

The study also showed that the number of alcohol-related discharges from the hospital increased 94.8 percent from 1995 to 2018, revealing the increased burden placed on the healthcare system due to alcohol-related conditions over the past 20 years.

To view the full report, click here.