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Irish Alcohol Harm: Health, Economy, Death

Three people died every day in 2013 as a result of alcohol consumption, a new report has revealed.

According to the findings, the number of people discharged from hospital that year whose condition was totally attributable to alcohol use, was 17,120. This marks an 82% increase when compared to 1995’s figure of 9,420.

Increase in consumption

The report by the Health Research Board (HRB) is based on newly compiled data from the hospital inpatient reporting system. It revealed that in 2014, Irish alcohol users consumed an average of 11 litres of pure alcohol each – that is equivalent to 116 bottles of wine, 29 litres of vodka or 445 pints of beer. This is 21% higher than the Department of Health’s target to reduce consumption to 9 litres per head and places Ireland 4th among OECD countries, just behind Estonia, France and Lithuania.

The amount of alcohol being consumed and the way that some people consume it, i.e. binge alcohol intake, is having a major impact on the health of many, the report found.

More hospital discharges, liver disease epidemic, breast cancer

Aside from the big increase in alcohol-related hospital discharges, there has also been an increase in the average length of stay. In 1995, patients with alcohol-related issues stayed an average of six days in hospital. By 2013, this had risen to 10 days. This suggests that alcohol-related cases are becoming more complex.

The report also found that the rate of hospital discharges involving patients with alcoholic liver disease increased three-fold between 1995 and 2013, and the highest rate of increase was seen in people aged between 15 and 34. The highest rate of increase was found in 15-34 year olds.

Meanwhile, the report also revealed:

  • Between 2001 and 2012, one in 10 cases of breast cancer was attributable to alcohol.
  • In 2014, 33% of self-harm presentations to hospital were related to alcohol.
  • The number of people discharged from hospital whose condition was partially attributable to alcohol increased from 52,491 in 2007 to 57,110 in 2011.

Massive negative impact on Irish economy

Aside from impacting people’s health, alcohol harm also has a massive impact on the economy and the tax payer. Alcohol-related discharges cost the tax payer €1.5 billion per year. In 2012, this was equivalent to €1 in every €10 spent on public health.

Furthermore, the estimated cost of alcohol-related absenteeism in 2013 was over €41 million and at the end of 2013, over 5,300 people on the Live Register had lost their job as a result of alcohol use.

The proposed Public Health Alcohol Bill contains a number of measures aimed at reducing alcohol-related harm in Ireland, including health warnings on alcohol products, the introduction of minimum unit pricing, restrictions on the use of price-based promotions and reducing children’s exposure to alcohol marketing.

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