Recently we shared findings from our research that showed almost half of people in Ireland feel that drinking to excess is no big deal, while 73% felt that this is simply due to Irish culture. The attitudes and behaviours reflected in this research are in direct conflict with the reality of the impact alcohol misuse can have on a person’s health and wellbeing. Using what we already know - when provided with the information, people are more likely to make changes to their drinking habits - we set out to challenge this. The result is our new Drinks Calculator Wheel, which provides information on four areas:
As a health promotion organisation, providing access to this level of nutritional information is essential for people to be able to make informed decisions about alcohol. Without the facts, how can we expect people to make a change? The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill currently making its way through the Dáil makes provisions for this and as the leading source of trusted alcohol information in Ireland1, naturally this is something we support. However, Drinkaware is not seeking to influence legislation that is passing through our Dáil or Seanad. We are not a lobbying organisation, our strategy is focused entirely on promoting the guidelines set out by our Department of Health and HSE through public education and raising awareness of alcohol misuse. Our work proactively contributes to achieving the overall objectives of the Bill: to reduce the harm associated with alcohol misuse in Ireland. On this, our position is clear.
Through our extensive range of resources - booklets, factsheets, online calculator, standard drink measure cup and our new wheel – we aim to help adults who choose to drink to make better, healthier choices when it comes to their drinking. This is particularly important at a time when both international research and an analysis of our online drinks calculator usage indicates people are drinking alcohol at home more often than in previous years. This year already we’ve distributed 20,000 alcohol education resources nationwide, and had more than 30,000 people use our drinks calculator online. All of our materials have one clear message: know, understand and adhere to the HSE low-risk guidelines (11 standard drinks for women spread out over the week, with at least two alcohol-free days and 17 for men). And to parents, understand the risks associated with underage drinking and have regular, fact-based conversations with your children about alcohol to delay the age of their first drink.
Our research tells us that one in three adult drinkers would like to drink less often but in reality, we are not doing it. Not yet anyway. Finding a solution and changing attitudes is by no means an easy task but we are getting there. We know that education is one of the components to this, but it doesn’t work in isolation. We need a collaborative approach to changing attitudes towards alcohol and by working together – education, government, community – we can achieve this. Our role is clear.
(1) National Attitudes to Alcohol, Health & Wellbeing, Behaviour & Attitudes 2017