Alcohol ’embedded’ in Ireland’s identity

26th June, 2014 by Lauren Eads

Ireland has a “complex” relationship with alcohol which has become embedded in its national identity, a government-backed report has concluded.

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The study, which surveyed 6,000 aged between 18 and 75 from the Republic of Ireland, was carried out by the Health Research Board (HRB) and funded by the Irish Department of Health.

Of those questioned, 37% admitted to consuming six or more drinks in a single drinking session, categorised as binge drinking, with 54% of participants classed as “harmful drinkers” based on the World Health Organisation’s AUDIT-C screening tool.

Binge drinking was most common among drinkers aged between 18 and 24, while 63.9% of men and 51.4% of women said they started binge drinking before turning 18, the legal drinking age in Ireland.

Just 20.6% of those surveyed said they had abstained from alcohol in the previous 12 months.

Graham Love, chief executive of HRB, said: “Ireland has a complex relationship with alcohol.”

“Its use has become embedded in our national identity and it is often associated with significant cultural and religious events.”The study by the Health Research Board (HRB) – funded by the Irish Department of Health – surveyed nearly 6,000 people aged between 18 and 75 who were asked to keep alcohol diaries recording their consumption.

Love added, “as a nation, it is clear that we need to recognise, accept and tackle the negative consequences that can arise from our use of alcohol.”

According to Love, the estimated cost of tackling alcohol-related crime and associated health problems is €2.39 billion, alongside €527 million in lost economic output.

In response to the study’s findings, The Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI) cited findings from DCU Economist Tony Foley in March 2014, sourced from the CSO Population and Migration Estimates and the Revenue Commissioners’ alcohol clearance data, which found alcohol consumption levels in Ireland were now 25% lower than in 2001 with average consumption falling by 7.6% between 2012 and 2013.

Thomas Burke, senior executive at ABFI, said: “While overall consumption is falling, binge drinking is still problematic in our society.

“We need to look at ways of addressing this issue in a way that affects long term societal change. This requires a whole of society response.

“The drinks industry remains committed to tackling the issue of alcohol misuse in conjunction with Government and other stakeholders such as the HRB.”

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