Alcohol-related conditions on the rise among women in Ireland

National alcohol charity launches new women and alcohol leaflet to mark 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day

Alcohol Action Ireland, the national charity for alcohol-related issues, has launched a new leaflet detailing what every woman needs to know about low risk drinking as research shows that alcohol-related conditions are on the rise among women.

Speaking ahead of International Women’s Day (March 8), Alcohol Action Ireland Director Fiona Ryan said: “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.”

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 under 18 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 under 30, 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%

Ms Ryan said: “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.”

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.”

Ms Ryan added: “Recent years have seen profound changes in women’s drinking habits, the impact of which has shown a number of worrying trends.

“Since 1995, Irish teenage girls have been drinking as much and sometimes more than their male counterparts. In the same period, the proportion of Irish teenage girls discharged from hospital for alcohol-related conditions increased by almost a third.

Ms Ryan said: “Today in Ireland, 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.

“The new Government must take steps to reduce the harms caused to women by providing women with targeted action-driven information about alcohol misuse and the risks it poses to their physical and mental health in order to help women reduce their drinking.”

Alcohol Action Ireland is also asking the new government to introduce legislation around a “floor price” below which alcohol cannot be sold and to regulate alcohol marketing.

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.

Notes to Editor:
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 in the Alcohol & You section. Printed versions of the leaflet are also available.

Alcohol Action Ireland’s Policy Paper; Women and Alcohol: time for a rethink? can be viewed by clicking here

For further information or comment contact:
Alcohol Action Ireland Communications Officer Cathy Gray (01) 878 0610/ 087 995 0186