Drinkaware commments on Revenue data on alcohol consumption 23/03/22

Alcohol data is complex and should be viewed in context rather than from a single perspective which runs the risk of over-simplifying the issue:

Per capita consumption – such as the data released by the Revenue 23/3/2022 – is important as a consistent measure of Ireland’s consumption levels across the years and in relation to other countries.  And the latest figure that has alcohol consumption falling by almost 10% between 2019 and 2021 is indeed a positive one that charts Irish society’s progress towards healthier behaviour regarding alcohol.  A progress that as the national charity working to prevent and reduce the misuse of alcohol, Drinkaware certainly welcomes, and through our work seeks to optimise.

The Revenue figures however do not tell the whole story.  They include 15–18-year-olds and those who don’t drink – 23% of the adult population in Ireland don’t drink alcohol (Drinkaware Index 2019) so by taking these two groups out, a clearer picture of adult drinking in Ireland that is closer to reality, can be considered. 

Furthermore, the per capita consumption figures don’t flag harmful drinking patterns or specific groups who may be at risk.  From a prevention and progress perspective, this information is critical to redressing any negative behaviours regarding alcohol.  By contrast, national population survey data, such as the Healthy Ireland Survey and Drinkaware’s annual Barometer, highlight these two areas, and this is the all-important context to what the lived experience of alcohol is in Ireland. 

Alcohol data is arguably as contradictory as it is complex:  For example, when asked whether their drinking had increased or decreased (Barometer 2020), 25% said the latter and equally 25% said the former.  Of note though, is that for those that said they were drinking less, the prevalence of binge drinking was still very high, 1 in 6 people who stated they were drinking less, were also engaging in binge drinking. 

Understanding the nuances, the ‘why?’ and the ‘how?’, as well as the ‘how much?’, is the catalyst to unlocking positive attitudinal and behaviour change.  That is why Drinkaware commits and pursues experience-rich research that sheds a focused light on the public’s actual thinking and behaviour regarding alcohol. 

There is a place and relevance in both types of research mentioned above.  But to maximise their value, they, and other related data including lifestyle and broader health and wellbeing studies, need to be read and analysed collectively.  Only then can the evolving and composite evidence be effectively considered and acted upon.

3 key stats from the 2021 Drinkaware Barometer

  • The number of adult drinkers who consume alcohol on a weekly basis has risen by 26% (44% in 2019 to 55% in 2021)
  • The number of adult drinkers who typically binge drink, when they have drunk in the past 30 days has risen by 10% (20% in 2020 to 22% in 2021)
  • The number of adult drinkers who would like to drink less has risen by 20% (31% in 2020 to 37% in 2021)

Visit our alcohol consumption webpage for more information.