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Alcohol warning as fifth of Northern Ireland adults say they need to cut back on drinking

By Victoria O'Hara

A fifth of adults in Northern Ireland believe they need to cut down on their alcohol intake, new figures reveal.

A survey on drug prevalence revealed 21% of people said they should reduce how much they drink. Worryingly, 7% said they believed alcohol was harming their home life and marriage.

A further 3% said their drinking in the last 12 months affected their parenting.

It has led to leading doctors warning that these latest figures once again shine the light on the growing problem of alcohol abuse in Northern Ireland.

The poll issued by the Department of Health of 2,511 people from across Northern Ireland also revealed:

  • Over three-fifths (61.8%) of those surveyed said they had drunk alcohol in the last month.
  • And 13% of people said they had family or relationship problems as a result of alcohol.
  • This was more than double those who had family or relationship problems as a result of drugs (5%).

The proportion of adults with children who felt that taking drugs affected their ability to interact with children was 5.5%. But Dr George O'Neill said that alcohol had been a problem for decades and that the true extent of its negative impact was not visible through the figures.

The west Belfast GP and chair of Addiction NI said it also highlighted that there was a significant alcohol problem and abuse of prescription medicine.

"The fact is, each statistic is a person with a family," he said.

"People suffering life inequalities seem to turn to alcohol and prescribed medication which seem to be the big problem in Northern Ireland and this is reflected in this survey."

He added that he was seeing a change in the type of people seeking help for drinking problems.

"Women in their 30s or 40s are presenting more in surgeries with alcohol problems and the other group is the over-55s, who have been quietly drinking away and there are no services for them because they are not out causing trouble or problems.

"But I think it also highlights the need for more support out there for people with addiction issues."

It comes after it emerged recently that drinking among older men has soared by 40% and among women by 100% over the past two decades.

Addiction NI said the problem equates to one in 10 women and one in every five men over the age of 60. Alcohol misuse is a leading cause of ill health in Northern Ireland.

It can contribute to a number of serious health conditions, including cancer, liver disease and heart disease.

The Department of Health has previously confirmed that alcohol misuse costs Northern Ireland up to £900m every year - including £30m spent on emergency department attendances.

Davis Turkington, senior officer with the Public Health Agency, said: "The concern for us is the people who do drink quite heavily and don't realise the danger, because that is the culture they were brought up around.

"I think what this poll does is reinforce the issue with alcohol in society," he added.

Addiction NI can be contacted on 028 9066 4434.

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