50–64 year-olds most likely to consume alcohol at least twice weekly – Health survey

Former Minister for State with responsibility for Primary Care Roisín Shortall TD recently launched Alcohol Consumption and Alcohol Related Harm in Ireland, the latest in a series of bulletins arising from data collected from the Drug Prevalence Survey 2010/11.

This, the third survey, found that alcohol-related harm is not restricted to the drinker but has negative consequences for families, friends and the wider community. Approximately 20 per cent of respondents experienced some form of harm as a result of their drinking with men twice as likely as women to report harm. Harm as a result of the drinking of others was experienced by 27 per cent.

Among the findings:

    •    87% per cent of adults aged 18-64 consumed alcohol in the previous 12 months (13 per cent were non-drinkers)

    •    almost 30 per cent of current drinkers consumed alcohol in a harmful pattern at least once a week

    •    over half of current drinkers engage in binge-drinking at least once a month (72 per cent of 18 to 24 year-olds)

    •    73 per cent of those aged 18 to 24 drank at least five standard drinks and 31 per cent consumed at least nine standard drinks per drinking occasion which equates to four-and-a-half pints of beer or one-and-a-quarter bottles of wine.

    •    Across all age groups men drank more frequently, drank more on one single occasion and engaged in more harmful drinking than women.

    •     Men were more likely to consume alcohol at least twice weekly compared with women (31 per cent vs 21 per cent). Those aged 50 to 64 were the most likely to consume alcohol at least twice weekly with 39 per cent of males and 22 per cent of females in this age group drinking this often.

    •     At 15 per cent, women were more likely than men (11 per cent) to be non–drinkers and respondents aged 50 to 64 (19 per cent) were more likely to abstain compared with 18 to 24 year-olds (seven per cent).

    •     Women (31 per cent) were more likely than men (18 per cent) to consume  one or two standard drinks per drinking occasion which is classified as being within low risk daily consumption limits.

“Instances involving excessive consumption of alcohol over the Summer period leading to anti-social behaviour and violence at large public events are among the latest overt illustrations of the problem,” commented Róisín Shortall, “The subsequent public reaction to such events may indicate that such blatant public drunkenness and negative behaviour can no longer be tolerated by the vast majority of our people. Increased focus on the availability of cheap alcohol, excessive drinking and associated anti-social behaviour is awakening us to the realities of the situation and the need to do something about it.”

She added,  “It is crucial that we as a society reduce the overall level of alcohol consumed in Ireland and also tackle the problems of alcohol misuse. I am determined that effective steps will be taken over the coming period to address problems associated with alcohol across our society”.

At the launch of the report she stated that she was confident that plans to ban cheap alcohol through the introduction of a minimum price would receive cross-government support.

However the phasing out of alcohol sponsorship "over a reasonable period of time" is now under discussion and she admitted that that the 2016 deadline for phasing-out alcohol advertising and promotions at sporting events had been "relaxed".

The survey, jointly undertaken by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and the Public Health Information and Research Branch of the Department of Health, Social Services & Public Safety in Northern Ireland, was conducted between October 2010 and May 2011 and comprised a representative sample of people aged 15 to 64. 7,669 people responded to the survey (5,134 in Ireland and 2,535 in Northern Ireland) which measured the prevalence of key illegal drugs as well as alcohol, tobacco and other drugs including tranquillisers and anti-depressants.

Men aged 50 to 64 were the most likely to consume alcohol at least twice weekly according to the survey.

Men aged 50 to 64 were the most likely to consume alcohol at least twice weekly according to the survey.

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