Alcohol abuse causing harm to one in four of us
Published 25/03/2014 | 02:30
The misery inflicted on others due to someone else's drinking is leaving one in four people coping with the trauma of family rows, drunk driving, assault, vandalism or money difficulties.
The heartbreak of family conflict is mostly felt by women, while men are more likely to be the victim of assault due to another's alcohol abuse.
The unhappiness and distress is outlined in a HSE-commissioned report 'Alcohol's Harm to Others in Ireland', which analysed existing research here and in countries like Australia.
Women in the 18 to 29-year age group have a similar rate of assaults to men in their 30s, the analysis showed.
It was likened to the ill-effects imposed on non-smokers who had to breathe somebody else's second-hand smoke before lighting up in public places was banned.
It found that harm caused to children by an adult's alcohol abuse in Ireland is higher than reported in Australia, which also has a reputation for its hard-drinking culture.
One in 10 parents say children have suffered at least one trauma due to drinking – including verbal abuse, being left in an unsafe situation, witnessing violence in the home or physical abuse in the previous year.
"While the severe child-abuse cases tend to come to the attention of the health and social services, there is a large pool of families with less noticeable risky drinking behaviour and problems.
"In Ireland, given that an estimated 271,000 children under 15 years of age are living with parents who are regular risky drinkers, there is an urgent need to implement effective alcohol policy measures to regulate the affordability, availability and marketing of alcohol to break the negative cycle of drinking," the report said.
The report was prepared by Dr Ann Hope of the Department of Public Health in Trinity College.
Responding to the call, Junior Health Minister Alex White, who launched the report, said proposed legislation aimed at reducing the availability of cheap booze should be published by the summer.
The report also highlighted the overall rate of reported pain caused in Irish workplaces due to a hard-drinking colleague is twice as high as that reported in Australia.
The negative knock-on effects of a employee's heavy drinking can result in colleagues having an accident, working extra hours or having a "close call".
The report said: "This suggests that the negative impact on productivity and the economic cost is most likely to be significantly higher in Ireland."
Dr Hope said the problem of alcohol abuse should not just be seen in context of harm to the drinker and action is need to protect the wellbeing of others who are directly affected by another person's addiction.