Alcohol Action in partnership with UCC publish new insight to Global Burden of Disease data on alcohol related harm.

Alcohol Action and University College Cork (UCC) School of Public Health today (Wednesday, 23 February) have published a research paper that provides greater analysis on the accurate levels of alcohol related death and illnesses in Ireland. The publication of the paper is being marked by a webinar: If we don’t measure it, we can’t manage it, featuring public health researchers and advocates in Ireland and Scotland.

Working with the most up-to-date datasets from the Global Burden of Diseases (GBD), which is based at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) but whose lead researcher in Ireland is Dr Zubair Kabir at UCC’s School of Public Health, the findings demonstrate that existing data (2017) under-reports the likely death rate by over 40%.

Using the most recent datasets (2019) researchers have now estimated the new annual alcohol related deaths at 1,543, which was previously observed at 1094 (2017) based on HRB analysis; this suggests that four people will die every day in Ireland from alcohol related harm and illness. 

 These premature deaths translated into losing a total of approximately 62,237 Disability-Adjusted Life-Years (DALYs) attributable to alcohol in 2019 the young and middle-aged disproportionately losing more DALYs and loss of productivity. 

There are a variety of causes for these alcohol related deaths, namely liver cancer, cirrhosis and other chronic liver disease along with other significant conditions included pharyngeal, lip and oral cavity, oesophageal and breast cancers, as well as alcohol use disorders, respiratory and heart diseases. Analysis of the data suggest that 27% of suicides and self-harm incidents are attributable to alcohol.

The paper outlines the contribution of public policy initiatives over the last two decades, or more especially those relating to cancer care and road safety, that has made significant improvements in alcohol related deaths, notably a reduction in fatal breast cancers through better screening and fewer road fatalities through legislation and prevention campaigns tackling drinking and driving.

The concluding commentary of the paper urges greater government action to accelerate the outstanding measures within the Public Health Alcohol Act, which contains many of the WHO ‘Best Buys’ on evidence-based measures to reduce population alcohol use and slow the march of a new generation, which will impact on limiting alcohol related deaths and harm. Equally, the authors’ propose a strategic rethink to the existing public approach and promotes the concept that a dedicated statutory office focused on progressive alcohol prevention, treatment and care, at this point would serve Ireland best.

Commenting on the collaborative research and paper, Dr Zubair Kabir, School of Public Health, University College Cork, said:

GBD is a rich resource in public domain for easy comparability of standardized comprehensive data on a timely fashion through powerful infographics informing and developing policies for the health status of Ireland 

Dr Sheila Gilheany, CEO, Alcohol Action Ireland said:

This data demonstrates the unacceptable burden of alcohol in Ireland. Every life lost or damaged brings grief and devastation to individuals and families right across Ireland. Beyond that there is the huge economic and social cost to our society. But this is not a problem without a solution. With ambition, focus and proper co-ordination across government we can achieve better outcomes for all our citizens. 



Editor’s Notes 

The Paper published can be downloaded here:


Global Burden of Disease (GBD) 

The GBD is a global enterprise supported by a team of over 7000 researchers in more than 200 countries, including Ireland. The GBD core team is based at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, USA.

The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) provides a tool to quantify health loss from hundreds of diseases, injuries, and risk factors. The data captures premature death and disability from more than 350 diseases and injuries in 204 countries, by age and sex, from 1990 to the present, allowing comparisons over time, across age groups, and among populations. The flexible design of the GBD computation framework allows for regular updates as new data and epidemiological studies are made available, such Eurobarometer, Eurostat and the CSO.

IHME – The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) is an independent global health research center at the University of Washington:

This research project was supported by a grant from the Irish Research Council under the New Foundations, Enhancing Civic Society strand.