If you are one of the many people in Ireland thinking about drinking less alcohol (or none at all) in a bid to improve health and wellbeing, you’re not alone. Our consistently rising website visitors make it clear that the appetite for more mindful drinking is growing. A great place to start is by getting the facts on standard drinks and the HSE low-risk weekly alcohol guidelines. We know from the Drinkaware Index 2019 that awareness of both is critically low - just 2% of Irish adults know the guidelines - so there is still a lot of work to do.
What can make this complex information even more difficult to understand is conflicting information on some alcohol labels. Over the past few months, we have had a rise in queries from people who are asking for some clarification on the guidance printed on some labels, especially on the differences between standard drinks and units. This rise in queries is reflective of the shift towards more mindful drinking that we are seeing across Ireland over the past six months. Read on for a rundown of everything you need to know about standard drinks.
Alcohol guidelines are typically set by the Department of Health in each country. If you see unit content displayed on a can or bottle label, this will show the alcohol content in a UK unit, not an Irish standard drink. The result for people in Ireland will be an underestimation of how much alcohol was consumed. We recommend to always follow the guidance for Ireland.
In addition to alcohol produced in Ireland, some products sold here will be imported from all over the world. The labelling of alcohol packaging can take place in countries outside of Ireland. Each country will have different labelling requirements and alcohol guidelines. This means that the information on the label will usually reflect the country where it was packaged.
With all this said, knowing the guidelines can help you to understand your drinking habits over the course of the week. Remember, these are guidelines - not a target.
Binge drinking is consuming six or more standard drinks in one sitting. This is the equivalent of three pints of cider (568ml), six bottles of lager (330ml) or four glasses of prosecco (150ml). Regular binge drinking can increase risks to your health and wellbeing.