Home > Attitudes towards alcohol: Special Eurobarometer.

Mongan, Deirdre (2010) Attitudes towards alcohol: Special Eurobarometer. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 34, Summer 2010 , pp. 24-25.

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Europe is the region with the highest per capita consumption of alcohol in the world. In the European Union (EU), harmful and hazardous alcohol consumption is the third largest risk factor for ill health, and is responsible for 195,000 deaths each year. The economic cost to the EU each year is estimated at €125 billion.1 Against this backdrop, the European Commission recently commissioned a survey of respondents in each of the 27 member states, with the aim of analysing EU citizens’ alcohol consumption patterns, their awareness of the adverse health and social effects, and opinions regarding policy options to reduce alcohol-related harm.2 Fieldwork took place in October 2009 and respondents were interviewed face-to-face in their own homes. In Ireland, 1,008 respondents were interviewed. A similar survey was conducted in 2006.3 

Main findings
The majority of the EU population drink alcohol, with 76% reporting that they had consumed alcohol in the year prior to the survey. Although Irish people drink on fewer occasions, they are the most likely of EU citizens to consume more drinks on a drinking occasion and to binge drink (defined as consuming at least five drinks on a singe drinking occasion) (Table 1). Just 34% of Irish respondents consume two drinks or less per drinking occasion, compared to 69% of Europeans. The survey also found men more likely to engage in weekly binge drinking than women (36% vs. 20%).

Irish respondents reported high levels of support for drink-driving countermeasures (Table 2). Although Irish respondents were largely uninformed about the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit, just 4% stated that it would be safe to drive after consuming more than two drinks, compared to 14% of Europeans. Among Irish people there is widespread support for reducing the permitted BAC for young and novice drivers. The level of support for drink-driving countermeasures among Irish people may be attributed to the introduction of random breath testing in 2006, which has been credited with reducing road deaths and the work of the Road Safety Authority.

The survey also investigated opinions regarding the responsibility for and prevention of alcohol-related harm. In Ireland, 53% consider individuals to be mainly responsible for protecting themselves from alcohol-related harm (Table 3). There is strong evidence that alcohol is price sensitive, with consumption increasing as price decreases and vice versa.4 Young people and heavy drinkers are the two groups of people who are most likely to be affected by price changes. One third (31%) of Irish respondents believe that young and heavy drinkers would buy less alcohol if prices increased by 25%. One third state that they themselves would buy less alcohol if the price increased, and 18% would buy more alcohol if the price decreased. This demonstrates that there is a lack of awareness among Irish people of what policies are effective in reducing alcohol consumption. 

All European countries are strongly in favour of prohibiting the selling and serving of alcohol to people under the age of 18. There is strong support for measures that restrict young peoples’ exposure to alcohol, with 81% of Irish respondents in favour of the banning of alcohol advertising that targets young people (Table 4). Not surprisingly perhaps, young people aged 15–24 years were least likely to favour controls that tighten regulations concerning their age group. There is broad support for putting warning labels on alcohol bottles in order to inform pregnant women and drivers of the dangers associated with drinking alcohol, with 86% of Irish respondents in favour of such an initiative

While this survey shows that the proportion of Irish respondents reporting weekly binge drinking has decreased since 2006, drinking patterns in Ireland are still problematic. More encouragingly, there is widespread support for drink-driving countermeasures and for measures aimed at protecting young people from premature exposure to alcohol.

1. Anderson P and Baumberg B (2006) Alcohol in Europe: a public health perspective. London: Institute of Alcohol Studies. Available at http://ec.europa.eu/health-eu/doc/alcoholineu_content_en.pdf
2. TNS Opinion & Social (2010) EU citizens' attitudes towards alcohol. Special Eurobarometer 331. Brussels: European Commission.Available at http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion
3. TNS Opinion & Social (2007) Attitudes towards alcohol. Special Eurobarometer 272. Brussels: European Commission.
4. WHO Regional Office for Europe (2009) Evidence for the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of interventions to reduce alcohol-related harm. Copenhagen: World Health Organization. Available at http://www.euro.who.int/en/home
Item Type:Article
Issue Title:Issue 34, Summer 2010
Page Range:pp. 24-25
Publisher:Health Research Board
Volume:Issue 34, Summer 2010
Accession Number:HRB (Available)
Subjects:MA-ML Social science, culture and community > Sociocultural aspects of substance use > Societal attitude toward substance use
F Concepts in psychology > Attitude and behaviour > Attitude toward substance use
VA Geographic area > Europe

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