Large proportion of Irish people may be “in denial” about how much alcohol they drink
A new study flags as a concern that so many Irish people with alcohol dependence believe themselves to be light or moderate drinkers.
A large proportion of Irish people may be in denial about the amount of alcohol they drink and the potential harmful effects it has on their health.
That’s according to a new study from the Health Research Board (HRB) examining harmful and hazardous drinking among Irish people, which found that many Irish people underestimated the amount of alcohol they drink.
Only one in three regular binge drinkers, the study found, recognised their binge drinking as harmful to their health.
One in three people considered to be alcohol dependent described themselves as either 'light' or 'moderate' drinkers, while one in two people in the same category described themselves as ‘light’ or ‘moderate’ drinkers who ‘sometimes binge drink’.
The study found that women who were alcohol dependent were less likely (one in 10) to describe themselves as heavy drinkers, compared to one in five men.
To put the findings into context, harmful drinking, or regular binge drinking, is defined as consuming approximately six standard alcohol drinks in one sitting.
Hazardous drinking, or alcohol dependence, is defined as experiencing alcohol cravings and a lack of control when it comes to drinking.
The people who most accurately estimated how much alcohol they drink were low-risk drinkers, defined as drinkers who are not alcohol dependent and who do not engage in regular binge drinking.
The study is based on data from Ireland’s Drug Prevalence Survey 2014/2015, which involved interviews with over 7,000 people across Ireland, aged 15 to 65+, all of whom were asked to indicate how much they drank and describe their self-perceptions of their own drinking.
The people who took part in the study were representative of the Irish population in terms of their age, gender and socio-economic status.
Commenting on the findings, lead researcher Dr Deirdre Mongan said: “The results of the study highlight that patterns of alcohol use in Ireland are problematic, and that a large proportion of Irish people may be in denial about the potential harmful effects of their drinking behaviour on their health.
“It is particularly concerning that so many Irish people with alcohol dependence believe themselves to be light or moderate drinkers, especially in light of the fact that in Ireland, those who are alcohol dependent are most likely to experience alcohol-related harm.”
Dr Mairead O’Driscoll, Interim Chief Executive at the Health Research Board, said the study indicated the need for the introduction of population-based public health measures to combat alcohol-related issues.
“This HRB study illustrates that further initiatives to reduce overall consumption and hazardous and harmful drinking patterns and raise awareness around drinking patterns are required,” she said.
“A diverse range of public health policies targeted at the entire population is most appropriate, given the fact that a majority of harmful and hazardous drinkers underestimated the amount of alcohol they drank.
“The introduction of population-based measures in the Public (Alcohol) act in 2018 is required to reduce alcohol-related harms in Ireland.”
The study in full can be seen here, while the HRB will also publish their latest report on alcohol treatment in Ireland early next week.