On 29 April 2008, the Department of Health and Children published the third SLÁN survey of lifestyle, attitudes and nutrition in Ireland. The then Minister for Health Promotion and Food Safety, Pat The Cope Gallagher TD, launched the findings for Ireland.1
The survey involved 10,364 face-to-face interviews with adults resident in Ireland, which represented a 62% response rate. The sample was drawn from the GeoDirectory using a multi-stage probability procedure, and was stratified by townland, urban–rural location, age and social class.
Respondents were asked a number of questions about their alcohol and drug use. The responses were weighted for age, gender, marital status, country of birth and ethnicity.
Respondents who had not consumed alcohol in the 12 months prior to the survey included:
· almost one in five of those surveyed
· 23% of women and 15% of men surveyed
· two in five of those aged over 65 years
· almost one-quarter of those classified as social class 5 or 6.2
Respondents who had consumed alcohol four or more times per week in the 12 months prior to the survey included:
· 8% of those surveyed
· 11% of men and 5% of women surveyed
· one in ten of those aged between 45 and 64 years
· one in ten of those classified as social class 1 or 2.2
Respondents who had consumed six or more standard drinks on one or more occasions per week in the 12 months prior to the survey included:
· 28% of those surveyed
· 38% of men and 17% of women surveyed
· two in five of those aged between 18 and 29 years
· just over one-third of those classified as social class 5 or 6.
The proportion reporting that they drank six or more standard drinks on one or more occasion per week in the year prior to the survey fell from 45% in 2002 to 28% in 2007. This decrease was observed across gender, age and social class. Some reduction in the proportion of the population that engaged in binge drinking could be expected as a result of the increase in excise on spirits, but this decrease is larger than expected. In addition, the authors note that this finding must be interpreted with caution because of the change in sample selection and data-collection methods in 2007 compared to those in 2002 and 1998, as shown in Table 1.
Sixty-seven per cent of the respondents who drank alcohol were car drivers, of whom 12% reported that they had driven in the year prior to the survey after consuming two or more standard drinks. More men (17%) than women (5%) reported this practice. Respondents classified in social class 5 or 6 were more likely to report this practice than those in other social classes, 15% compared to 12%. The percentage of drivers who reported this practice decreased from 16% in 2002 to 12% in 2007. This decrease is to be expected since random breath testing for drivers was introduced in June 2006. In addition, the different data-collection method used may account for a proportion of the change (Table 1).
Respondents were asked about their use of illegal drugs in the last year (Table 2). Six per cent reported that they had used an illegal drug in the year prior to the survey; the reported use of such drugs was higher for men (9%) than for women (4%). As expected, cannabis was the most commonly used drug. The percentage of those who used cocaine in the last year was surprisingly low at 1%. In general, these data are not comparable to the results of the 2006/7 general population survey by the NACD as the SLÁN survey excluded those between 15 and 17 and included those over 65 years.
In general, the use of confidence intervals would allow commentators to rule out sampling variation when comparing the SLÁN surveys, both over time, and with other surveys completed at the same time.
1. Morgan K, McGee H, Watson D, Perry I, Barry M, Shelley E, Harrington J, Molcho M, Layte R, Tully N, van Lente E, Ward M, Lutomski J , Conroy R and Brugha R (2008) SLÁN 2007: Survey of lifestyle, attitudes & nutrition in Ireland. Main report. Dublin: Department of Health and Children.
2. Central Statistics Office classification by social class: 1. Professional workers; 2. Managerial and technical; 3. Non-manual; 4. Skilled manual; 5. Semi-skilled; 6. Unskilled