Jun 4, 2006

Drinking in Ireland

THE Irish spend an average of €1,675 per household per year on alcohol — three times more than the second-highest spenders, Denmark, and 10 times more than Greece.

A survey shows we spend more money on alcohol than any other EU country and we also top the league of shame in binge drinking among young people. The figures are based on the proportion of income spent on drink.

A survey has revealed that Europe is the heaviest drinking region of the world, consuming two-and-a-half times the average of the rest of the globe.

It is estimated there are 23 million alcoholics in the EU, directly affecting the lives of nine million children. Alcohol causes 115,000 deaths a year and is now Europe’s third-biggest killer after tobacco and high blood pressure. It’s the leading cause of death in young men.

According to the latest figures, 10,000 people die in road traffic accidents due to drunk drivers, 2,000 are murdered by drunken killers and 60,000 babies are born underweight to mothers who drink through their pregnancies each year.

The study, carried out by the British-based Institute for Alcohol Studies for the European Commission estimates that alcohol costs €125 billion a year in early deaths, healthcare, crime, lost productivity and traffic accidents.

The study of Europe’s drinking habits paints a picture of the Irish as mainly beer drinkers. Irish adults are the sixth-highest alcohol consumers in the EU after Hungary, Lithuania, the Czech republic, Latvia and Luxembourg, according to the study.

They drink an average of more than 16 litres each of pure alcohol a year, equivalent to 178 bottles of wine, 800 pints of beer or 1,067 shots, compared to the European average of 11 litres. About 65% of this was beer, 20% spirits and just 7% wine.

About 22% of Irish people say they have not had a drink in the past 12 months.

Young Irish drinkers binge drink more than their European counterparts, with 32% of 15 and 16-year-olds bingeing at least three times a month on a minimum of five litres of beer, or a bottle of wine or five shots of spirits.

The study shows the Irish have not changed the pub culture for the continental one of drinking at meal times. Just 3% said they only drink when eating, the smallest proportion in Europe compared to 50% of Italians.

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