Beyond the serious health consequences, the harmful use of alcohol brings significant social and economic losses to individuals and society at large in Ireland.
The burden of alcohol harm is often experienced by those around the drinker, such as a family member, friend, co-worker or innocent bystander. Alcohol’s harm to others undermines public safety and is experienced in every community, ranging from the nuisance factor, feeling unsafe in public places, drink-driving, to a violent attack by an intoxicated drinker.
Although not often visible in public, alcohol’s harm to others within the family can have very serious consequences for the safety and well-being of family members, with children the most vulnerable. Life-long damage, through foetal development disorders, can also be caused to the unborn child by alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
Meanwhile, all taxpayers are responsible for paying for the cost of alcohol harm to the State, mainly driven by health and crime costs, while there is also a considerable loss of economic output due to alcohol.
Therefore it’s clear that while drinking alcohol is an individual choice, it is one that has significant social and economic impacts, and Ireland’s high level of alcohol consumption has an impact on all of us, regardless of our personal relationship with alcohol.
Some of the impacts of alcohol’s harm to others in Ireland are:
- Alcohol is a significant contributory factor in many cases of child neglect and parental drinking has been identified as a key child welfare issue.
- Alcohol is a factor in two fifths of fatal collisions on our roads.
- Alcohol is a factor in many assaults, including sexual assaults, rape and domestic violence, and manslaughter.
- Alcohol is a factor in the vast majority of public order offences.
- Every day, 1,500 beds in our overcrowded hospitals are occupied by people with alcohol-related problems.
- The Health Research Board found that €1.5 billion was spent on alcohol-related hospital discharges in 2012 (€1 for every €10 spent on public health) and that figure does not include the amount spent on the many alcohol-related visits to A&E departments, GP visits, psychiatric admissions and alcohol treatment services
Follow this link for the key findings on alcohol’s harm to others from a report prepared for the HSE by Dr Ann Hope, Department of Public Health and Primary Care, Trinity College, Dublin.