Working to reduce alcohol harm

Per capita alcohol consumption in Ireland in 2015 was 10.93 litres of pure alcohol per person aged 15+

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OUR current level of alcohol consumption, based on 2015 figures, is 10.93 litres of pure alcohol per person aged 15+, which is a slight, but welcome reduction from 11 litres in 2014.

The Irish population increased slightly (0.3%) from 2014 to 2015, but there were was a 4.6% reduction in the population of the relatively heavy drinking 20 to 29-year-old age group between 2014 and 2015, according to CSO figures.

As per capita alcohol consumption remained stable from 2014 to 2015, there was little notable change across the different alcohol categories, but beer (-1.5%) and cider (-6.9%) consumption decreased, while consumption of wine (+2.2%) and spirits (+1.9%) increased, according to Revenue’s clearances data.

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 alcohol 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.

At 10.9 litres of pure alcohol per person every year, we are still drinking at 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. We have the fourth highest level of alcohol consumption in the OECD region and the second highest rate of binge drinking in the world.

It’s also important to note that over a fifth of Irish people do not drink at all (24% according to the Healthy Ireland Survey 2015 and 21% according to the Health Research Board’s National Alcohol Diary Survey), which is not reflected in the per capita 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.

The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill is legislation designed to tackle Ireland’s harmful relationship with alcohol. It aims to reduce the damage that alcohol causes to individuals, families and society by reducing our alcohol consumption, with a particular focus on protecting children and young people from alcohol harm.

This legislation is part of a range of measures planned under the Healthy Ireland framework, which will work together to improve our health and wellbeing, both as individuals and as a nation. Its goal is to reduce our per capita alcohol consumption in Ireland to the OECD average of 9.1 litres for every person aged 15 and over by 2020 and to reduce alcohol harm. However, at this level our alcohol consumption would still be well above the global average (6.2 litres), with Europe by far the heaviest drinking region in the world.