Belfast Telegraph

Revealed: Northern Ireland is a nation of stay-at-home binge drinkers

Three-quarters of population booze - 58% of females 'take too much'

By Adrian Rutherford

They're the hidden bingers - the women who drink at home with no idea of the damage they're doing.

A new Government report into Northern Ireland drinking habits has provided a fascinating snapshot, which is challenging the traditional views of problem alcohol consumption.

The results show that more than half of people in Northern Ireland say they exceed the recommended daily alcohol limit – with one in six men admitting they do so at least three times a week.

It found 71% of men and 58% of women admitted they drink more than they should, according to official guidelines.

The recommended daily limit for men is 3 to 4 units – equivalent to a pint-and-a-half of beer.

Women should not drink more than 2 to 3 units – the same as a 175ml glass of wine. Some 13% of men – nearly one in six – and 6% of women said they had exceeded the recommended limits on three or more days.

The survey also found that 65% of drinkers consume at home, while only 20% consume in either a pub or restaurant.

The findings challenge traditional views that excessive drinking is stereotypically a habit of young people out partying or clubbing at the weekend.

It raises the dangers faced by thousands of women who regularly enjoy a glass or two of wine in the evening at home.

Experts warn that people who don't stick to the guidelines are at greater risk of cancer, heart attacks and liver disease.

Other key findings were:

  • Almost one-third (31%) of those who drank in the week before the survey had taken part in at least one binge drinking session with males (35%) more likely to do so than females (27%).
  • Younger adults (aged from 18 to 29) are more likely to drink than older people (60 to 75) – 82% compared to 58%.
  • 8% of men and 5% of women said they drank daily or almost every day, with older people more likely to drink each day.
  • One in 20 men (5%) and 3% of women admit they drank at dangerous levels throughout the week.

The Department of Health said alcohol misuse costs Northern Ireland hundreds of millions of pounds each year.

"Every year there are over 12,000 hospital admissions with an alcohol-related diagnosis and it causes additional pressures on our emergency departments," a spokesperson said.

"Anyone who drinks more than the recommended daily drinking levels increases the risk of harm to themselves."

The Adult Drinking Patterns Survey is the fifth of its kind and was conducted between October 1 and November 30 last year. The findings were released yesterday and outline the amount of alcohol which people consumed; when, where and what they drank, and those with drink problems.

The survey found that almost three-quarters (73%) of respondents consume alcohol, with more men than women (76% and 70% respectively) saying they drank.

The most common alcoholic drinks consumed by men were beer (70%), wine (35%) and spirits (27%). For women it was wine (64%), spirits (30%) and beer (19%). In the majority of cases, people admitted they did not stick to the guidelines.

Just 29% of men and 42% of women said they did not exceed the recommended daily levels during the week prior to the survey.

For males and females the likelihood of exceeding the daily limits decreased with age, with those aged between 18 and 29 most likely to drink more than they should.

Overall, 11% of respondents who drank were classed as problem drinkers – up from 9% when the survey was last carried out in 2011.

The proportion of younger respondents aged 18 to 29 that had problems with drinking (17%) was almost twice that among respondents aged 45 years and over (9%)

The highest proportion of problem drinkers lived in the Belfast Trust area (16%), while the lowest was in the Southern Trust area (8%).

Three-quarters of males (74%) and four-fifths of females (81%) drank within sensible levels – less than 21 and 14 units of alcohol per week respectively.

Five per cent of men and 3% of women drank at dangerous levels throughout the week – over 51 units for men and over 36 units for women.

Factfile

Daily limits:

No more than four units a day for males and three for females

Weekly limits:

Men drinking 21 units or less are considered to be drinking within sensible limits. Those drinking 51 units and above are drinking at dangerous levels.

The sensible limit for females is 14 units per week, 36 units and above is considered dangerous

Binge drinking levels:

Consuming 10 or more units of alcohol in one session for men and seven or more for females is described as "binge drinking".

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