Home > New HRB study reveals that many people in Ireland underestimate how much they drink.

[Health Research Board] New HRB study reveals that many people in Ireland underestimate how much they drink. (23 Jul 2020)

External website: https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/32429/

A recent study from the Health Research Board (HRB) looked at hazardous* and harmful** drinking among Irish people and found that these drinkers underestimated the amount of alcohol they drink.  

The main findings were:

  • Just 1 in 3 regular binge drinkers were aware of their drinking pattern.
  • 1 in 3 people who were alcohol dependent considered themselves as either ‘light’ or ‘moderate’ drinkers.
  • 1 in 2 people who were alcohol dependent described themselves as ‘light’ or ‘moderate’ drinkers who ‘sometimes binge drink’.
  • While overall trends among women and men were similar, women who were alcohol dependent were less likely to describe themselves as heavy drinkers (1 in 10) than men (1 in 5). 

Commenting on the findings, the lead researcher Dr Deirdre Mongan says,

The results of the study highlight that patterns of alcohol use in Ireland are problematic, and that a large proportion of Irish people may be unaware or in denial about the potential harmful effects of their drinking behaviour on their health. 

‘It is particularly concerning that so many Irish people with alcohol dependence believe themselves to be light or moderate drinkers, especially in light of the fact that in Ireland, those who are alcohol dependent are most likely to experience alcohol-related harm.’ 

Was anyone accurate about how much they drink? 

The people who most accurately estimated how much alcohol they drink were those deemed low risk drinkers***. 

Dr Mairead O’Driscoll, Interim Chief Executive at the Health Research Board states, 

This HRB study illustrates that further initiatives to reduce overall consumption and hazardous and harmful drinking patterns and raise awareness around drinking patterns are required.

Dr O’Driscoll continues, 

A diverse range of public health policies targeted at the entire population is most appropriate, given the fact that a majority of harmful and hazardous drinkers underestimated the amount of alcohol they drank. The introduction of population-based measures in the Public (Alcohol) act in 2018 is required to reduce alcohol-related harms in Ireland.’ 

The paper is published in BMJ Open

*Hazardous drinking, or regular binge drinking, is defined as consuming at least 6 standard alcohol drinks in one sitting.

**Harmful drinking is defined in this study as alcohol dependence

***Low-risk drinkers were those drinkers who were not alcohol dependent and who did not engage in regular binge drinking. 

The study is based on data from Ireland’s Drug Prevalence Survey 2014/2015, which involved interviews with over 7,000 people across Ireland aged 15+, all of whom were asked to indicate how much they drank and describe their self-perceptions of their own drinking. The people who took part in the study were representative of the Irish population in terms of their age, gender and socio-economic status. 

The HRB will publish their latest report on alcohol treatment in Ireland early next week. 

For more information contact

Gillian Markey, Communications Manager, Health Research Board

e gmarkey@hrb.ie      m +353 87 2288514

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