Alcohol-related conditions on the rise among women in Ireland

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Women account for a quarter of all alcohol-related discharges from hospital – but this figure jumps to half in the under 17 age bracket.

And it is possible for a woman to reach her low risk weekly drinking limit for €6.30 – less than an hour’s work on minimum wage.

As a result, Alcohol Action Ireland is calling on the new Government to introduce legislation for a ‘floor price’ on alcohol and to regulate alcohol marketing.

The charity also has launched a new leaflet Women & alcohol: Making the drink link detailing what every woman needs to know about low risk drinking as research shows that alcohol-related conditions are on the rise among women.

While for many of us, alcohol is something we enjoy, it’s important to recognise the health risks that go hand in hand with drinking.

“Women are more affected by alcohol than men are – it’s not sexist, it’s a fact. We are smaller, we metabolise drink at a slower rate and it affects our vital organs more,” said Alcohol Action Ireland Director Fiona Ryan.

Research shows that alcohol-related conditions are on the rise among women:

  • Between 1995 and 2004, there was an increase of 29% in the proportion of Irish teenage girls aged under18 discharged from hospital for alcohol”‘related conditions compared to an increase of 9% for boys
  • One in four women in Ireland discharged from hospital for alcohol”‘related conditions were aged under30, compared to one in six men in the same age range
  • Women account for a quarter of all alcohol-related discharges, but among those aged 17 and under, the proportion of discharges from hospital is almost half, at 47%

“As women develop alcohol-related health complications earlier than men, it is likely that, if current trends continue, we will see higher numbers of middle-aged women at increased risk of dying as a result of alcohol-related conditions,” Ms Ryan warned.

With four in ten women drinkers in Ireland already drinking to harmful levels, Ms Ryan said it is vital now more than ever that women be made more aware of the health-risks associated with alcohol.

“Many women do not know that drinking just one standard drink a day – the equivalent of a small glass of wine or a half a pint of beer – can increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer by 9 per cent, with three to six drinks a day increasing the risk by as much as 41 per cent.

“When it comes to drinking, women are also more susceptible to tissue damage such as cirrhosis of the liver as well as alcohol dependence.”

Women and Alcohol –   the facts:

  • Four in ten women drinkers report harmful drinking patterns, that is, their drinking is already causing damage to their health (Department of Health, SLÁN Report on Alcohol).
  • A man who drinks six or more standard drinks a day is 13 times more likely to develop cirrhosis of the liver compared to a non-drinker. A woman needs to only drink four standard drinks a day – about half a bottle of wine – to increase her risk of developing cirrhosis to the same degree. That’s about a half bottle of wine.
  • Women who drink four or more drinks a day are five times more likely than non-drinkers to develop mouth, oropharynx and laryngeal cancers and eight times more likely to experience haemorrhagic stroke.

Alcohol Action Ireland’s leaflet Women & alcohol: Making the drink link looks at why women must be particularly careful with alcohol and is available on the charity’s website at

Printed versions of the leaflet are also available. If you or your organisation wish to order copies of the leaflet , please email or call us on 01 878 0610.