Irish men have very high levels of alcohol consumption and also a consistent pattern of binge drinking, defined as drinking at least six standard drinks on one drinking occasion, which is especially dangerous to health and wellbeing.

The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Global status report on alcohol and health 2014 found that almost two thirds of Irish men (62.4%) who drink alcohol had engaged in binge drinking in the previous month. Alcohol is the world’s leading risk factor for death among males aged 15-59, according to the WHO.

One in four deaths of young men aged 15-39 in Ireland is due to alcohol.  For further information on the health risks associated with alcohol, follow this link.

Irish men’s alcohol consumption

The Health Research Board’s National Alcohol Diary Survey found that:

  • Almost two-thirds (63.9%) of males started drinking alcohol before the age of 18 years.
  • Four-in-five (80.3%) male drinkers, consumed six or more standard drinks on the occasion that they consumed the highest number of standard drinks in the last year.
  • One-third of male drinkers who consumed alcohol in the week prior to the survey, drank more than the HSE’s recommended low-risk weekly drinking guidelines (i.e. more than 17 standard drinks).
  • This measure was highest in the 18 to 24 years age group, with 43.8% of young men drinking more than the recommended weekly guidelines.
  • One-in-eight (12.9%) men and consumed more than the recommended weekly guidelines in a single day in the week prior to the survey.
  • This measure was, once again, highest in the 18to 24 years age group, with one-in-four (27.9%) young men drinking more than the recommended weekly guidelines in a single day.
  • Beer was the most common type of alcohol consumed by men of all age groups (76.7%). Cider was consumed by more than one-in-five young adults (22.5%).
  • Monthly binge drinking in Ireland was most common among males aged 18 to 24 years (67.8%).
  • Three in ten (29.9%) drinkers experienced at least one of the eight harms as a result of their own alcohol use, with men 1.5 times more likely than women to report harms (men 35.7%, women 24.1%).
  • 18% of men experienced at least one of the five harms as a result of someone else’s alcohol use.

The low-risk weekly recommended guideline for alcohol consumption for men is no more than 17 standard drinks a week, spread out over the course of a week, with at least two to three alcohol-free days.

Boost your health with the help of Alcohol Action Ireland’s  information leaflet Men & Alcohol: Making the Drink Link, which includes key facts that are good to know and lists some handy tips to help cut down your alcohol intake.

The Healthy Ireland Survey 2015 found that:

  • Men drink more frequently than women – 60% of men who drink do so at least weekly, compared with 46% of women.
  • Men across all age groups drink more frequently than women, however the difference is smallest amongst those aged 15 to 24 (men: 42%, women: 36%) and 35 to 44 (men: 54%, women: 47%).
  • Those drinking alcohol consume on average 5.6 standard drinks on a typical drinking occasion. The average is higher for men (7.2) than women (3.9).
  • Three-quarters (75%) of men aged 15 to 24 who drink consume six or more standard drinks on a typical drinking occasion.
  • Whilst prevalence of binge drinking declines with age, the extent of this decline is more substantial for women than men. Whilst over 1 in 3 men aged 65 and over who drink do so at this level on a typical drinking occasion (34%), fewer than 1 in 10 (9%) of women aged 65 and over who drink do so in this way.

  Alcohol consumption and cancer among Irish men

  • Between 2001 and 2010, 6.7% of male cancer deaths in Ireland were attributable to alcohol – that’s 2,823 men.
  • Among Irish men, the majority (63.6%) of alcohol-related cancer deaths were in the upper-aero digestive tract (e.g. mouth and throat cancer).
  • In Ireland the proportion of alcohol related deaths from cancer for men is higher than the European average, at 20.7% for Irish men (versus 17% in Europe).
  • The projected number of new cases of alcohol-related cancers in the Republic of Ireland is expected increase by 81% for men by 2020.

Alcohol and suicide

The link between alcohol and suicide has been well established. Alcohol is a factor in more than half of completed suicides in Ireland and four times more men than women die by suicide.

The National Suicide Research Foundation has found that alcohol is associated with increasing trends in highly lethal methods of self-harm, in particular among men.

The All-Ireland Young Men & Suicide Project Report, found that “alcohol and substance misuse tend to be higher in young men and are associated with increased suicide risk”, while impulsive behaviour associated with alcohol use was also highlighted as one of the main risk factors for suicide among young men.

Dr Bobby Smyth, a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist, described the typical sequence of events in a suicide where alcohol is a factor:

“The majority of young men who take their own lives are intoxicated at the time. While we may choose to believe that people take alcohol in order to complete the act of suicide this is rarely the case.

Many of these young men and women have no history of suicidal behaviour. While we cannot know what exactly is going on in the mind of someone who completes suicide, we can at least learn from those who survive serious attempts. As I psychiatrist I have met many such people.

The typical sequence of events goes as follows. You are in bad form for whatever reason, often to do with relationships. You decide to have a few drinks to help you forget about it, as our culture encourages you to do. It doesn’t work.

You think about it even more. You do or say something, perhaps in an effort to sort out the relationship problem; but you are drunk, so it doesn’t work out so well. You feel worse. You decide to drink some more.

As you get more drunk the future is foreshortened. You are impulsive and have greater difficulty thinking of solutions. Life seems suddenly impossible and unbearable. Suicide begins to look like a solution and in your disinhibited, disorientated state you act on it.”

You can read Dr Smyth’s piece on alcohol and mental health, from which the above extract is taken, in full here.

Irish men drink more than women. Men who drink above the recommended weekly limits are vulnerable to a range of health problems including heart and liver disease and cancers such stomach, throat, kidney, oesophageal, bowel cancer.

Reducing the risk

Men are advised to drink no more than 21 standard drinks a week, with no more than three standard drinks a day, if they want to keep their risk of developing alcohol-related health problems low. It is also important to have at least two days a week free from alcohol.

The low-risk guidelines apply to healthy, adult men in the 18-65 age range. They do not apply to all men. If you are a younger or older man, you will need to drink less to stay within the low-risk range. And there are times men are advised not to drink at all – for example, if on particular kinds of medication or if experiencing particular kinds of physical or mental health problems.

Keeping an eye on your drinking is important if you want to keep health risks to a minimum. Knowing how much you drink will allow you to see if you’re within the recommended low risk weekly limit. And you don’t need to have a drink problem to benefit from drinking less. Reducing your alcohol intake has many advantages including

  • Increased energy
  • Better sleep
  • Less weight gain
  • Increased stability in mood

What is a standard drink?

Standard drinks contain about 10g of pure alcohol

One standard drink is:

  • A half pint of lager
  • A single measure of spirits
  • A small glass of wine (around 100mls)
  • A bottle of any alcopop
  • A bottle of wine constitutes 8 standard drinks

Remember it’s difficult to pour a standard drink at home without the guide of pub measures.

How do I know if drinking could be damaging my health?

This short test, formulated by the World Health Organisation, will help you to find out whether your drinking could be harmful. When you have answered all the questions, click on the “Complete Test” button at the end to get your score and feedback.

If you regularly drink heavily, think you might be dependent on alcohol or are concerned about your drinking, you might like to seek support. Your GP will be able to guide you through the help available to find something that suits you.

Alcohol and your body

Drink puts men at increased risk of developing more than 60 different diseases and conditions some of which are caused by alcohol, while alcohol is a contributory factor in others. These include:

  • Cancer of the mouth, tongue and throat
  • Oesophageal cancer
  • Laryngeal cancers
  • Acute pancreatitis
  • Cardiovascular diseases including stroke and coronary heart disease
  • Liver cirrhosis
  • Liver cancer

You may be surprised to learn that most drink-related deaths and diseases actually occur among drinkers who are not dependent on alcohol.

It’s not just physical health that can be negatively affected by the way we drink. Drinking above low-risk weekly limits also increases the risk of damage to mental health, of having an accident or injury, as well as doing damage to relationships with friends and family

Accidents and injuries

Being drunk can contribute to getting into risky situations that would be avoided if sober. A recent Irish study found that those who drank over the weekly limit were three times more likely to be involved in a fight or accident than others. One in four admissions to Accident and Emergency Departments are alcohol-related.

Alcohol & mental health

We often use alcohol to change a mood or mental state, to cope with situations we might find stressful or worrying, or to relax or unwind after a hectic day. Although in the short term a drink might seem like a good idea, drinking can increase depression and anxiety soon after use, leaving a person feeling low and unable to cope.

There are more effective and healthier ways to cope with life’s stresses. Eating well, exercising and finding enjoyable ways to relax and to cope are very important. And don’t forget to talk to someone you trust about your worries and concerns.

Alcohol & sexual health

Alcohol can cloud your judgement and result in you having sex without precautions. Many men report to being drunk the first time they have sex with someone, which could result in you getting a STI or an unplanned pregnancy. Regular heavy drinking can result in reduced sexual appetite, lower your fertility level or even result in poor sexual performance or difficultly getting an erection.

For more information on contraception, sexual health and crisis pregnancy, please visit

For more information about alcohol and your health, please visit the following sites:

National Office for Suicide Prevention’s new site at is a youth mental health service

Head Strong is a national organisation working with communities to ensure that young people are better supported to achieve mental health and well being

Mental Health Ireland is a national voluntary organisation which aims to promote mental health and support persons with a mental illness aims to improve awareness and understanding of mental health in Ireland

Heads Up is an automated 24hr text service set up to show young people where to get help

The Samaritans aims to improve people’s emotional health in order to create a greater sense of well being. They provide support with a 24-hour telephone line, by email, by letter or face to face, and also through work in the local community

Aware is the national voluntary organisation providing support through depression

Accord is an Irish voluntary Catholic organisation that aims to promote a deeper understanding of Christian marriage and to offer people the means to safeguard and nourish their marriage and family relationships.

HSE Health Promotion Unit is the HSE’s information website aimed at raising awareness of alcohol related problems