Belfast Telegraph

One in 10 'has alcohol problem'

By Steven McCaffery

Nearly one in 10 people surveyed about drinking in Northern Ireland has been found to have a problem with alcohol.

The research compiled on behalf of the Department of Health was based on interviews with more than 2,000 people and revealed trends in alcohol use.

But a specific test used to identify problem drinkers indicated that 9% of people fell into that category.

The report said that agreeing to two or more of these clinical interview questions suggested that it was highly likely that a problem with alcohol existed.

The four statements are:

  • I have felt that I ought to cut down on my drinking;
  • People have annoyed me by criticising my drinking;
  • I have felt ashamed or guilty about my drinking;
  • I have had a drink first thing in the morning to steady my nerves or get rid of a hangover.

The research found 61% of people considered themselves to be light drinkers, 36% consider themselves to be moderate drinkers.

And while the test found 9% had a problem with alcohol, only 3% of people said they considered themselves to be heavy drinkers.

The wide-ranging survey examined the amount people drank, when, where and what they drank and who they drank with.

It also examined how drinking behaviours varied across different sections of society, plus the proportion of people who binged, experienced problem drinking, and perceptions of drinking.

More than seven out of 10 (74%) of adults drink alcohol and the survey found larger proportion of males (78%) than females (72%) drink.

Younger adults (18-29 years) were found to be more likely to drink than older adults (60-75 years).

Around half (52%) of drinkers reported drinking alcohol at least once a week, or more frequently. Some 6% reported drinking on an almost daily basis.

A greater proportion of male respondents (8%) compared to females (5%) reported drinking alcohol daily or on most days.

The element of the research focusing on drinking behaviour found that most drinking occurs over the weekend and peaks on Saturdays.

The most common drinks consumed were wine (48%) and beer (47%).

Most of those who drank in the week prior to the survey had either consumed alcohol at home (64%), in the pub (20%) or at someone else's home (20%).

Around eight in 10 respondents (78%) reported having reached or exceeded the recommended daily limit for drinking on at least one occasion in the week prior to the survey.

And 18% of male drinkers reached or exceeded the recommended daily limits on three or more days that week, compared to 16% of female drinkers.

The recommended daily limits were exceeded most often on a Saturday (53% of drinkers) and on a Friday (31% of drinkers).

The research found that more females (80%) compared to males (74%) stayed within the weekly guidelines for sensible drinking limits.

But three in 10 (30%) of those who drank in the week before the survey, had engaged in at least one binge drinking session.

Males (35%) were more likely than females (25%) to binge drink, while half of respondents in the youngest age group (18-29) who drank in the week prior to the survey had engaged in at least one binge drinking session compared to 13% of respondents in the oldest age group (60-75).

The report said levels of alcohol consumption could be banded into weekly guidelines for sensible drinking.

On a weekly basis, males drinking 21 units or less were considered to be within sensible limits, those drinking between 22 and 50 were considered to be above sensible but below dangerous levels, and those drinking 51 units and above were drinking at dangerous levels.

The sensible limit for females was 14 units per week, the above sensible and below dangerous level was between 15 and 35 units, and dangerous levels were 36 units and above.

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