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Alcohol Action Ireland. (2016) How much are we really drinking? Alcohol Action Ireland, .

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What is our current level of per capita alcohol consumption?

Our current level of alcohol consumption, based on 2014 figures, is 11 litres. If you exclude the 20% of the population aged 15+ who do not drink alcohol, our per capita alcohol consumption rises to 13.75 litres of pure alcohol for every Irish person aged 15 and over.

The increase in alcohol consumption in Ireland 2014 was particularly notable in the wine (+6.9%) and beer (+4.2%) categories. This increase in our alcohol consumption also happened despite a 5% decrease in the population of the relatively heavy drinking 20 to 29-year-old age group between 2013 and 2014, according to CSO figures.

How is our per capita alcohol consumption worked out in Ireland?

Alcohol consumption figures for Ireland are calculated on the basis of figures provided by the Office of the Revenue Commissioners and the Central Statistics Office (CSO). The total volume of alcohol consumed, measured in litres of pure alcohol, is based on Revenue clearances data and then this figure is divided by the population aged 15-years-old and above, as defined by the latest Census information available from the CSO.

Do the figures provide an accurate reflection of our per capita alcohol consumption?

This simple calculation is the standard method used in Ireland and in many other countries to work out rates of alcohol consumption. The biggest issue with this method is that it’s estimated that over a fifth of Irish people do not drink at all (21% according to a comprehensive 2013 study), which is not reflected in the figures. So when this is taken into account, those who are drinking are clearly drinking more, on average, than the consumption figures calculated this way indicate.

Why use per capita alcohol consumption?

Per capita alcohol consumption is considered a good indicator of levels of alcohol harm in a country. International evidence reflects that the higher the average level of average consumption in the population, the higher the levels of alcohol harm will be in that country. Reducing per capita alcohol consumption can reduce alcohol harms throughout society.

Is our current per capita alcohol consumption a high or low figure?

At 11 litres of pure alcohol per person every year, we are still drinking at very high levels and experiencing unacceptably high levels of alcohol-related harm, a situation that is exacerbated by our unhealthy drinking patterns, particularly the prevalence of binge drinking.

The average alcohol consumption per capita in the OECD region in 2012 was 9.11, but Ireland was 2.5 litres above that at 11.61, according to the OECD health statistics 2014.  While average alcohol consumption decreased by 15% in Europe in the 30 years from 1980 to 2010, it increased by 24% in Ireland during the same period. We have the fourth highest level of alcohol consumption in the OECD region.

Our low-risk weekly guidelines are a maximum of 17 standard drinks for a man and 11 standard drinks for a woman.

So is our alcohol consumption rising or falling?

Our current (2014) level of alcohol consumption of 11 litres is an increase from 10.6 litres in 2013, which was a reduction of almost a litre on 2012 and followed on from a substantial excise duty increase. Before that our consumption levels had remained relatively static since 2010. Our alcohol consumption was 11.3 litres in 2009, rising to 11.9 litres in 2010, following an excise duty cut of 20% on all alcohol products, before settling at 11.7 litres during 2011 and 2012.

What about our alcohol consumption trends over a longer period of time?

OECD figures show how alcohol consumption in Ireland almost trebled over four decades between 1960 (4.9 litres) and 2000 (14.2 litres).

Alcohol consumption in Ireland increased by 46% over a 15-year period between 1987 (9.8 litres) and 2001 (14.3 litres) when our consumption reached a record high. Consumption then fell by about 8% during 2002 and 2003, with a significant rise in excise duty on spirits leading to a sharp fall in spirits consumption and an overall fall in alcohol consumption.

Our alcohol consumption figures then remained relatively static from 2003 to 2007, but fell significantly over a two-year period from 2007 to 2009, when there was a reduction of 16%, as the recession began to take its toll on expenditure in Ireland. A significant excise duty increase resulted in a fall of alcohol consumption by almost a litre in 2013, before it began to increase again in 2014.

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Report
Drug Type
Intervention Type
Screening / Assessment
January 2016
Alcohol Action Ireland
Corporate Creators
Alcohol Action Ireland
Accession Number
HRB (Electronic Only)
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