It’s said that pub culture has come to an end in Ireland with the recession and the five-fold increase in off licenses nation-wide (between 1990 and 2006) being the root cause, however what impact, if any, has this had on alcohol abuse? The pub trade may be in decline but it would seem this isn’t affecting the quantity or frequency of drinking in Ireland. With the cost of drinks in pubs increasing, people are availing of the much cheaper off license option and drinking more in their homes. Drinking at home can lead to problems in the quantity consumed, as what we may serve ourselves at home can tend to be a lot more generous than pub measurements.
Between 1998 and 2010 there was a 161% percent increase in the number of full off licenses and a 19% decrease in pub licenses. With off licenses selling alcohol at a much cheaper rate and also offering deals on buying in bulk, alcohol is much more affordable and accessible in quantity to the consumer. Overall alcohol became 50% more affordable in Ireland between 1996 and 2008. The average Irish woman can reach her low risk weekly drinking limit for just 6.30Euro, while men can reach theirs for just under 10.00Euro. To put just how affordable this is into perspective, the minimum hourly wage is 8.65Euro.
In a report done by the Health research board in 2012 on alcohol, public knowledge, attitudes and behaviours 76% of people said they had bought alcohol in a supermarket, with 24% saying they would buy more if the price decreased further. Almost half the participants agreed that they tend to buy more alcohol when it is on special offer. So with increased availability to alcohol, despite the downturn in pub trade, has this led to more alcohol abuse? At present four out of ten Irish women report harmful drinking patterns which are damaging to their health and a higher proportion of women drink in Ireland compared with other European countries (77% compared to 68%). Seven out of ten men are reported to drink at levels which is harmful to their health, with one in four deaths of young men aged between 15 and 39 being alcohol related. There is also a well-established link between alcohol abuse and suicide. Suicide is the leading cause of death in young Irish men aged 15 to 24, with almost half of all suicide victims being found to have abused alcohol in the last 12 months.
Alcohol abuse is also a major contributing factor to increases in crime in the country, with alcohol being identified as a contributing factor in 97% of public order offences and approximately 318,000 people reporting that they or a family member had been assaulted by someone under the influence of alcohol in the past 12 months.
With Ireland continuing to be one among those ranking the highest for the consumption of alcohol in the EU it is fair to say that although many pub doors have closed, the availability and affordability of alcohol has meant that alcohol abuse appears to be on the rise and there are serious challenges developing for the country in terms of costs and reparation. There are campaigns under way however to alleviate some, if not all the issues the minimum pricing campaign being one example.
For more information go to: www.alacoholireland.com, www.drinkaware.ie,