Ireland tops ‘pre-loading’ league

Ireland has been identified as having a prevalence for harmful drinking patterns in a new study, 'The country-level effects of drinking, heavy drinking and drink prices on pre-drinking: An international comparison of 25 countries', published in the Drug and Alcohol Review.

The Review examined the effects of drinking, heavy drinking and drink prices on ‘pre-drinking’ consumers.

Using data provided to the Global Drug Survey 2015 by 16 to 35 year-olds, the survey was restricted to those who said they’d had a drink in the last year and who’d also frequented pubs and nightclubs. It found Ireland to topping 25 countries for ‘pre-loading’ with over four in five or 85.4% estimated to be participating in the practice. The 25-country average for this was 63%.

The survey covered 65,126 people in 18 European states (1,183 from Ireland) as well as the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Mexico and Colombia.

At 80.5% Norway came second to Ireland in the pre-loading league with Canada on 80.2% coming third. Interestingly 73.4% of Spanish respondents engaged in pre-loading, putting Spain up with the Northern European countries for the highest levels of binge-drinking. However cultural differences such as the ‘botelon’, a Spanish communal street drinking practice among young people also influenced this figure. The UK figure for pre-loading was 75.3% and 67% for France. 51% of the Italians surveyed engaged in this practice.

At the other end of the spectrum, only 17.7% of Greeks engaged in pre-loading.

With 80.9% of the Irish sample having taken a drink in the past 12 months, Ireland also scored highly in the ‘heavy drinkers’ table, coming fourth at 48.2% for ‘binge-drinking’ on these occasions compared to the 25-country average of 26%.

The Finnish came first for this followed by the Greeks and the Austrians. The UK figure by comparison with Ireland was 33.4%.

Alcohol Action Ireland described the findings as worrying.

“We know that our drinking habits have changed dramatically in recent decades, with alcohol consumption in the home much more common and supermarkets, with their low-price offerings, now the main players when it comes to alcohol sales,” commented Alcohol Action Ireland’s Head of Communications and Advocacy Conor Cullen, “The worrying aspect of these findings is not where people are drinking, but the manner and quantity of their alcohol consumption as this is ultimately what impacts on their health and wellbeing, regardless of where the drinking takes place.

“The survey findings suggest that engagement in pre-drinking is partly sustained by the same cultural tendency to drink that underpins alcohol use in the general population and in Ireland we know – and this survey confirms – that for many people this means pre-drinking is simply part of an exercise in drinking to get drunk and it’s particularly popular among younger age groups as it can be achieved very cheaply.”

Conor Cullen concluded, “We drink in a culture where excessive alcohol consumption has been normalised, as has the significant harm that it causes, including the loss of three lives every day. The responsibility for addressing this major public health problem does not just lie with individuals, but with our Government, which has an opportunity, through the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, to create an environment that supports healthier decisions in relation to alcohol consumption and can help change our harmful relationship with alcohol for the better”.


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