How much is too much?

Alcohol misuse in Ireland is fuelling a growing health and crime crisis that is costing us an estimated €3.7billion* a year in health, crime/public order and other ancillary costs, such as work-place absenteeism.

At a time when we need to do more with less, it’s worth remembering that these costs are avoidable costs. According to the Chief Medical Officer of Ireland, a 30% reduction in alcohol-related harm would result in a cost saving to the Exchequer of €1billion.

We as a country can no longer afford the current price of cheap alcohol – a woman can reach her low risk weekly drinking limit for €6.30 and a man for under a €10, the equivalent of around an hour’s work on minimum wage.

Meanwhile, alcohol-related harms cost each tax payer in Ireland an estimated €3,318 a year. And that’s just the financial cost:

  • 88 deaths every month in Ireland are directly attributable to alcohol
  • One in eleven children in Ireland say parental alcohol use has a negative effect on their lives – that is about109,684 children
  • There are 1,200 cases of cancer each year from alcohol in Ireland
  • One in four deaths of young men aged 15-39 in Ireland is due to alcohol
  • One in three road crash deaths is alcohol-related

Based on the figures in the Health Research Board’s Irish Alcohol Diaries 2013 report, more than 150,000 Irish people are dependent drinkers, more than a 1.35 million are harmful drinkers and 30% of people interviewed say that they experienced some form of harm as a result of their own drinking. The report also reveals we underestimate what we drink by about 60%. If this is the case, the situation is much worse than what has been presented in the comprehensive report.

The question we need to ask ourselves is – how much is too much?

[*Figures from a study commissioned by the Health Service Executive]

The Health Research Board has found that:

  • There is a strong belief (85%) among Irish people that the current level of alcohol consumption in Ireland is too high
  • There is a general perception (73%) that Irish society tolerates high levels of alcohol consumption
  • A considerable majority (72%) said they know someone, who in their opinion, drinks too much alcohol
  • Of those who know someone who drinks too much, 42% say it is an immediate family member
  • 58% of people think the Government is not doing enough to reduce alcohol consumption, while 19% think the Government is doing enough
  • 78% believe that the Government has a responsibility to implement public health measures to address high levels of alcohol consumption

Follow this link to read the full HRB report or view the presentation below.