Many Irish people who engage in binge alcohol consumption or who are dependent on alcohol are not aware of their level of alcohol use and underestimate their own alcohol consumption and the harms that come with it. This is concerning since this group of people is the most at risk of experiencing alcohol harm.

Many Irish people who use alcohol underestimate their level and pattern of alcohol use, according to research by the Health Research Board.

The results of the study highlight that patterns of alcohol use in Ireland are problematic, and that a large proportion of Irish people may be in denial about the potentially harmful effects of their [alcohol use] behavior on their health,” said Dr. Deirdre Mongan, Research Officer at the Health Research Board and lead author of the study, as per HRB News.

Dr. Deirdre Mongan, Research Officer, Health Research Board

The Health Research Board reports that the alcohol use figures depicted by alcohol sales data and self-reported surveys on alcohol use don’t match up in Ireland. This suggests that Irish people are underreporting or underestimating how much alcohol they actually consume.

In order to substantiate this assumption and find out if Irish people were aware of their own patterns and levels of alcohol use, the HRB conducted a study using HRB’s 2014/15 Drug Prevalence Survey. They examined the alcohol consumption patterns of the 7005 participants of the survey.

Key findings of the study:

  • Two in three regular binge alcohol users did not realize their alcohol use was harmful to their health.
  • One in three people who were dependent on alcohol thought they were ‘light’ or ‘moderate’ alcohol users.
  • Half of the people who were dependent on alcohol described themselves as light’ or ‘moderate’ alcohol users who binge on alcohol sometimes.
  • Overall trends among men and women were similar but women who were dependent on alcohol were less aware (1 in 10) than men (1 in 5) about their heavy alcohol use.

In Ireland, we live in a culture where alcohol is everywhere and binge alcohol use has been normalized compared to other countries,” said Dr. Deirdre Mongan, Research Officer at the Health Research Board and lead author of the study, as per The Irish Mirror.

We found there was low awareness among alcohol users with high risk alcohol use patterns that they consumed alcohol in this way.”

Dr. Deirdre Mongan, Research Officer at the Health Research Board

Dr. Mongan says it is specifically concerning that those who are dependent on alcohol think they are using alcohol in far lower levels than they actually are because these are the people with the highest risk of experiencing alcohol harm.

This HRB study illustrates that further initiatives to reduce overall consumption and high risk alcohol use patterns and raise awareness around alcohol use patterns are required,” said Dr. Mairead O’Driscoll, Interim Chief Executive at the Health Research Board, as per HRB News.

Dr. Mairead O’Driscoll, Interim Chief Executive, Health Research Board

Dr. O’Driscoll further highlights the importance of introducing the population-based measures in the Public Health (Alcohol) Act adopted in 2018 to reduce alcohol use and resulting harm to Irish people.

Public Health (Alcohol) Act of Ireland

The Public Health (Alcohol) Act was adopted into law in 2018 in the Republic of Ireland. The government has taken a stage-wise approach and is making steady progress in implementing the different provisions of the Act. 

  1. In 2019, several improvements regarding alcohol marketing rules stipulated by the Act came into force, including bans on advertising in public transport, 200 meters from a school, creche, or local authority playground, in cinemas except for films that are classified as over 18 and on children’s clothing. 
  2. In November 2020, section 22 of the Act came into force which saw the separation of alcohol in specified licensed premises. 
    1. The introduction of this regulation is part of a process to de-normalize alcohol as an ordinary grocery product.
  3. On January 11, 2021 section 23 of the Act came into force
    1. This meant the implementation of measures to de-normalize alcohol in Irish society by banning multi-buy deals, short-term price promotions and loyalty points for alcohol products.
  4. On November 12, 2021 section 15 which prohibits alcohol advertising in the sports area and section 16 which prohibits alcohol sponsorship came into force. 
  5. On January 4, 2022, section 11 which is the minimum unit pricing (MUP) policy came into effect.

In June, 2022 the Irish government initiated the process to place health warning labels on all alcohol products by submitting an application to the European Commission notifying about the draft Public Health (Alcohol) (Labelling) Regulations 2022. Health warning labeling is Section 12 of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018.

Health warning labeling on alcohol products is an effective intervention to increase awareness about alcohol harm. It has also been found to reduce alcohol use when applied according to the evidence-based best practice of health warning labeling. For example, a series of studies from 2017 found that conspicuous labels providing information on the risks of alcohol consumption or alcohol use guidelines increase public awareness and lead to reductions in alcohol use.

In one study in Yukon Territory, Canada, health warning labels on alcohol products led to a 6.6% sales decrease in Yukon compared to a 6.9% increase in sales in a nearby territory used as the control group.

Considering the low level of awareness among Irish people about their own alcohol use, health warning labeling is likely to work effectively in Ireland.


Health Research Board: “Drinking in denial in Ireland

Irish Mirror: “Irish people ‘in denial about drinking habits’ with many ‘not believing they are consuming dangerous levels of alcohol’

the “Many Irish people are in denial about their drinking habits, new research finds

Buzz: “Many Irish people are ‘in denial’ about drinking habits, says new research

Pressreader: “Drinkers in denial over binge habits