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Home > Social consequences of harmful alcohol use in Ireland. Overview 9

Health Research Board. Alcohol and Drug Research Unit. [Health Research Board] Social consequences of harmful alcohol use in Ireland. Overview 9. (2009)

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The Health Research Board has published a new report on the social consequences of harmful use of alcohol in Ireland.

The report compiles and analyses the available data on the subject, and uses a combination of archival data, survey research results and research literature.

Alcohol-related social problems, such as violence, public disturbance, poor work performance and family problems, are imposing a serious burden on Irish society, according to a new report published today by the Health Research Board (HRB). The report includes an analysis of data from the Garda PULSE system which reveals a 30% increase in alcohol-related offences between 2003 and 2007.

'We already know that alcohol consumption is related to 60 medical conditions and leads to premature death from disease, accidents and injuries. From the analysis presented in this report we can now see that the social consequences are imposing a considerable burden as well', says Dr Deirdre Mongan, Research Officer at the HRB and co-author of the report.

Alcohol-related offences rose from 50,948 in 2003 to 66,406 in 2007. The typical offender was a young male aged 24 years or under. Half of all offences were committed at the weekend. Just under half of adult offences occurred between midnight and 4.00 am, with a peak at 2.00 am.

'Social problems are not confined to young people alone. Personal drinking habits are having an impact at all ages', says Dr Mongan. 'Survey research has also shown that one in five people said they experienced harm to their friendships, home life or work, or were involved in fights in the previous year, as a result of their own drinking. The likelihood of this happening was highest among those who engaged in risky drinking every week and lowest among those who did not engage in risky drinking at all. This is not a coincidence', she says.

The report also reveals that one in four people experienced negative consequences as a result of someone else’s drinking, such as family trouble, financial problems, assault, vandalism or being a passenger in a car with a drunk driver. 

Speaking about the impact on others, co-author Dr Ann Hope says, 'It is important to remember that alcohol-related harm is not restricted to the drinker. The drinker’s personal choices are affecting their family, innocent bystanders and the wider community. It is important that people think about their drinking habits, not just in relation to their own health, but also in terms of the impact they have, or may have, on others.'

'The need to reduce the level of alcohol-related harm in Ireland has been emphasised in recent years. In March this year the Government approved the development of a combined national strategy to address alcohol and drug misuse. It is essential that this strategy is implemented in a comprehensive and co-ordinated way. We need a clear structure in place, with people given responsibility to ensure that the strategy is acted on. We also need all relevant stakeholders to be committed and active to ensure it is successful', Dr Hope concludes.

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