Drinkaware Annual Report 2021

Annual Report 2021 cover

Drinkaware Annual Report shows charity plays critical role for those hoping to curb alcohol misuse

Research highlights worrying trends regarding Irish adults’ mental wellbeing and relationship with alcohol

National charity welcomes two new members to Board of Directors

This week Drinkaware launched its 2021 Annual Report which shows the charity’s media campaigns had a reach of over 20 million and its resources saw more than 1 million webpage views in 2021. The far-reaching impact of Drinkaware’s resources played a key part in supporting the public through the ongoing impact of Covid-19 as more people searched for information and advice on how to prevent and reduce alcohol misuse.

Most significantly, the impact of this reach is evident as 85% of people now know Drinkaware as the trusted source of information on alcohol.

This comes as the national charity welcomes the appointment of two new board members to its independent voluntary Board of Directors. Sean Gill, Director of Behavioural Science & Product at S3 Connected Health, is appointed as Board Director, alongside Peter Denehy, Chartered Engineer and Practicing Barrister.

In 2021, Drinkaware proved a huge resource for those seeking more information regarding their drinking habits, particularly with its Drinks Calculator, an in-depth resource examining the impact and cost of alcoholic drinks (300,000+ views). Its Drink Driving information page (80,000+ views) and Minimum Unit Pricing Explainer (10,000+ views) also proved popular with the public.

The ongoing need for Drinkaware’s free resources is evident, as data from its most recent Annual Barometer 2022 shows low levels in overall mental wellbeing, most notably in those who have increased their alcohol consumption:

  • While only 26% of those surveyed in 2021 & 2022 recorded a high mental wellbeing score, it shows a slight improvement since the depths of the Covid-19 lockdowns in 2020 when it was at its lowest (20%). However, it still represents a dramatic decrease since 2019 (63%).
  • In addition, low mental wellbeing peaks for those who have increased their alcohol consumption since Covid-19 at 42%, which is 12% higher than the national average.

2021 also saw Drinkaware examining adults’ attitudes towards their alcohol consumption a year on from Covid-19. The report, similar to other research findings, showed worrying trends regarding respondents’ wellbeing and using alcohol to cope:

  • Low mental wellbeing peaked among 25-34-yrs (43%) as well as those that increased their consumption in the previous twelve months.
  • 61% indicated frequently drinking for coping reasons (60% in 2020, 50% in 2019).
  • 55% of adults reported drinking on a weekly basis in 2021 vs 52% in 2020 (44% in 2019).
  • 49% indicated binge drinking in the previous 30 days vs 46% in 2020.

A key standout for Drinkaware in 2021 was Maynooth University’s evaluation of its Junior Cycle Alcohol Education Programme. The programme has continued to grow year-on-year and, to date, more than 15,000 1st to 3rd year students have participated. The report found that as students progressed through the programme, the proportion who expressed no intention or interest in drinking rose from 30% in 1st year to 54% in 3rd year. Findings also showed that participation led to substantial and sustained improvements in students’ knowledge and understanding of alcohol.

As a result of the three-year evaluation, Drinkaware has updated the programme through adding six new lessons (two in each year) in line with trends evident throughout its ongoing research. These new lessons were developed under the themes of ‘Influences’ and ‘Coping’, aimed at educating students on the benefits of healthy coping mechanisms, and understanding internal and external influences and how these may impact on them. Continuing development of the project has taken place throughout 2022, with the addition of further resources, workshops, teacher training and support.

Launching the 2021 Annual Report, Drinkaware CEO Sheena Horgan commented:

“Our 2021 Annual Report highlights how Drinkaware’s online resources are being used widely by the public, which is positive given 2021 was a year where we felt the continued impact of the pandemic and lockdowns. However, many survey respondents continue to acknowledge high levels of drinking and alcohol misuse, which is alarming as our recent research shows only 3% of Irish adults can correctly identify the HSE low-risk weekly guidelines for alcohol consumption.

“On behalf of the Drinkaware team, I am delighted to welcome Sean Gill and Peter Denehy to our Board of Directors. Both share Drinkaware’s vision in educating the public and promoting an Ireland where alcohol is not misused. Sean and Peter bring unrivalled experiences to the Board and will help push our commitment to maintaining the highest governance and transparency standards.

“2021 also marked the end of our Strategic Plan 2019-2021 and, building on our achievements over this time, we’ve now launched our Strategic Plan 2022-2024, focusing on improving people’s knowledge, motivation and capabilities to change, while reducing their expectations that they have to drink alcohol at any time. I look forward to working alongside Sean and Peter and I know they will both be critical in delivering our new Strategic Plan.”

Sean Gill is a principle Behavioural Scientist and established the first behavioural team at S3 Connected Health, creating a process for tackling behavioural challenges entitled the Behaviour Change Compass framework, applying a behavioural and evidence-based lens to healthcare challenges. He is driven by why we do what we do, and how we can leverage the science of human behaviour to design products and solutions that enable patients and healthcare teams to live healthier, happier and longer lives. His passion for behavioural science in healthcare was triggered by the diagnosis of a chronic condition more than a decade ago and the need to change every aspect of his life to manage it effectively.

Peter Denehy, who is also a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and Engineers Ireland, has more than 30 years’ experience as a Senior Manager operating at Board level in the public, private and international sectors. He has served on Boards and Committees across Ireland, the USA and Switzerland.