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Home > Drinking patterns and the distribution of alcohol-related harms in Ireland: evidence for the prevention paradox.

O'Dwyer, Claire and Mongan, Deirdre and Millar, Sean and Rackard, Marion and Galvin, Brian and Long, Jean and Barry, Joe (2019) Drinking patterns and the distribution of alcohol-related harms in Ireland: evidence for the prevention paradox. BMC Public Health , 19 , (1323) . https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-019-7666-4.

URL: https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles...


Background: According to the prevention paradox, the majority of alcohol-related harms in the population occur among low-to-moderate risk drinkers, simply because they are more numerous in the population, although high-risk drinkers have a higher individual risk of experiencing alcohol-related harms. In this study we explored the prevention paradox in the Irish population by comparing alcohol-dependent drinkers (high-risk) to low-risk drinkers and non-dependent drinkers who engage in heavy episodic drinking (HED).

Methods: Data were generated from the 2013 National Alcohol Diary Survey (NADS), a nationally representative cross-sectional survey of Irish adults aged 18–75. Data were available for 4338 drinkers. Respondents dependent on alcohol (as measured by DSM-IV criteria), respondents who engaged in monthly HED or occasional HED (1–11 times a year) and low-risk drinkers were compared for distribution of eight alcohol-related harms.

Results: Respondents who were dependent on alcohol had a greater individual risk of experiencing each harm (p < .0001). The majority of the harms in the population were accounted for by drinkers who were not dependent on alcohol. Together, monthly and occasional HED drinkers accounted for 62% of all drinkers, consumed 70% of alcohol and accounted for 59% of alcohol-related harms.

Conclusions: Our results indicate that the majority of alcohol consumption and related harms in the Irish population are accounted for by low- and moderate-risk drinkers, and specifically by those who engage in heavy episodic drinking. A population-based approach to reducing alcohol-related harm is most appropriate in the Irish context. Immediate implementation of the measures in the Public Health (Alcohol) Act (2018) is necessary to reduce alcohol-related harm in Ireland

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