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Home > Women & substance misuse: alcohol & women’s health in Ireland.

Women's Health Council. (2009) Women & substance misuse: alcohol & women’s health in Ireland. Dublin: Women's Health Council.

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Ireland has always been stereotypically portrayed as a nation of heavy drinkers, and it is true that alcohol plays a central role in Irish culture. Alcohol is generally an integral part of Irish leisure activities and life events, with the pub acting as a hub of social life. It is perhaps unsurprising to learn, therefore, that Ireland has one of the highest levels of alcohol consumption in Europe – in 2007 in Ireland, 13.37 litres of alcohol were consumed for every person aged over 15 (Carew et al., 2009). Ireland’s alcohol related problems cost in excess of €2.65 billion in 2003, a figure that has risen since (Department of Health & Children, 2004a, Fanagan et al., 2008). Traditionally women in Ireland did not drink as much as men, but this pattern now appears to be changing, particularly among women in younger age groups.

The Women’s Health Council, in line with its statutory instrument, identified the need for a paper specifically on women and alcohol due to the gender differences in alcohol consumption habits but also the gender differences in the effects of alcohol. Research has shown that alcohol has specific, negative effects for women’s health, of which it is essential that women be aware. This paper will investigate current trends, examine the particular circumstances that lead to and result from problematic drinking among women, and draw out the particular effects of alcohol on women’s health and well-being. The Council envisages that the paper will be of interest to policy and strategy makers, as well as health service providers and those with an interest in women’s health.


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