Drinking in Denial: A Cross-Sectional Analysis of National Survey Data in Ireland to Measure Drinkers’ Awareness of Their Alcohol Use
Ireland has high per capita alcohol consumption and also has high levels of problematic alcohol use patterns. While it is accepted that patterns of alcohol consumption in Ireland are a cause for concern, it is not clear if Irish people are actually aware of the extent of their hazardous or harmful pattern of alcohol use. The aim of this study was to determine awareness of alcohol use patterns in an Irish population using a representative random sample and to identify characteristics associated with self-awareness of hazardous or harmful alcohol use.
This study analyzed data from Ireland’s 2014/2015 Drug Prevalence Survey which recruited a stratified clustered sample of 7005 individuals aged 15 years and over living in private households. Logistic regression analysis was used to determine characteristics associated with self-awareness of hazardous or harmful alcohol use.
Almost one-half of alcohol users had a hazardous or harmful pattern of alcohol use; 38% engaged in monthly risky single occasion drinking [alcohol use] (RSOD) and 10.5% met Diagnostic and Statistical Manual version IV (DSM-IV) criteria for alcohol dependence. Of the 2420 respondents who had a hazardous or harmful pattern of alcohol use, 67% were unaware of this and misclassified themselves as being either light or moderate user who did not engage in RSOD. An adjusted logistic regression model identified that hazardous and harmful users were more likely to be aware of their alcohol use pattern if they had completed third-level education (OR=1.80, 95% CI: 1.30 to 2.49) while older users (aged 65 and over) were less likely to be aware of their alcohol use pattern (OR=0.30, 95% CI: 0.14 to 0.65). Subjects who engaged in risk-taking behaviors such as illicit drug use and gambling were also significantly more likely to be aware of their alcohol use pattern.
The results of this study suggest that patterns of alcohol use in Ireland are problematic. Older respondents and those with lower educational attainment are less likely to be aware of their hazardous or harmful alcohol use pattern. There is also a population of younger, more-educated users who engage in potentially risk-taking behaviors and these subjects are aware of their harmful alcohol use pattern. Initiatives to reduce overall alcohol consumption and raise awareness around alcohol use patterns are required.