Irish drink 'far above' safe levels
Published 23/06/2014 | 10:57
More than 1.3 million people in Ireland have been branded harmful drinkers, in a survey of the nation's alcohol habits.
The poll showed a third of men and more than a fifth of women who drink are downing more than is recommended by health chiefs.
Furthermore, it reveals that three-quarters of all alcohol consumed in Ireland is taken during a binge session.
Dr Graham Love, chief executive of the Health Research Board, which published the report, said Irish people are still drinking "far above" what is determined as safe.
"Based on the figures in the report, more than 150,000 people are dependent drinkers, more than 1.35 million are harmful drinkers and 30% of people interviewed say that they experienced some form of harm as a result of their own drinking," he said.
"The report also reveals we under-estimate what we drink by about 60%.
"If this is the case, the situation is much worse than what has been presented in this report."
The National Alcohol Diary Survey - the first of its kind - questioned 6,000 people aged between 18 and 75 across the country last year about their drinking habits.
Dr Love said the findings raise serious concerns about the public's health.
The study shows one in five Irish drinkers goes on a binge - sinking more than six standard drinks, the equivalent of three pints of beer, after each other - at least once a week.
A standard drink is regarded as a half a pint of beer, 100 mls of wine or a pub measure of spirits.
The Health Service Executive advises men to drink no more than 16.8 standard drinks a week and women to take no more 11.2 drinks.
One in eight men and one in 10 women survey admitted to drinking their weekly limit in one session the week before the poll was carried out.
The figure was higher among younger drinkers.
Under the guidelines, 54% of all drinkers - or 1.35 million people around the country - are classified as "harmful drinkers", according to the report.
The findings show "that harmful drinking is the norm in Ireland" in particular among men and women under 35 years, the study's authors warned.
Most drinks are consumed at home (43%) or in a pub or nightclub (42%). Only one in 10 drinks taken in Ireland are in restaurant or hotel.
Around a fifth (21%) of those surveyed did not drink alcohol during the previous year.
Dr Jean Long, who heads up the Health Research Board's Evidence Centre and who co-wrote the study, said it proves people don't realise they are binge drinking.
"The report shows people who defined themselves as 'light or moderate drinkers' actually drank six or more standard drinks in a typical drinking occasion, which is binge drinking," she said.
"Because it is considered normal behaviour to consume high quantities in a single session, people don't realise they are drinking in a harmful way."