Men are three times as likely as women to be binge drinkers

Department of Health survey finds people in deprived areas drink less frequently


File photo: PA Images

Nearly one in four of us are binge drinkers, according to a new study published by the Department of Health.

The Healthy Ireland Survey 2016 indicates that 37% of people aged 15 and over have six or more alcoholic beverages on a typical drinking occasion.

Most male drinkers (55%) binge on alcohol, but only 18% of women do. 

While people in more economically deprived areas drink less frequently than those in more affluent areas, the extent of binge drinking is higher (40% and 35% of drinkers respectively).

The study of 7,500 people also found that four in 10 people drink at least once a week.

Among the other findings are that:

  • 23% of the population are current smokers;
  • Only 27% of women are aware of the increased risk of developing breast cancer as a result of heavy drinking;
  • Just 27% eat five portions of fruit and vegetables daily;
  • 11% of unemployed people mainly eat ready meals, compared with 2% of those in employment;
  • 83% of people say they would be willing to carry on a relationship with a friend who developed a mental health problem;
  • 14% consume sugar sweetened drinks daily, rising to 22% of those aged 15 to 24;
  • 18% of the population in Ireland is exposed to second-hand smoke on a daily basis;
  • People spend an average of six hours and 36 minutes sitting on an average day;
  • Most people (63%) say they would like to be more physically active.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Minister Marcella Corcoran Kennedy said the findings show some groups at still at risk of poor health because of lifestyle decisions.

"I am very conscious that there is an element of personal responsibility involved in making the changes needed to improve our health," she said.

"We can decide to be more physically active. We can try to limit high-salt, high-sugar and high-fat foods in our diets.

"We can opt for more fruit and veg, and try to cut down on treats."

Dr Tony Holohan of the Department of Health said: "While we have made progress in some areas in the last few years, rates of tobacco consumption, alcohol usage, food consumption patterns and physical inactivity are leading causes of increases in chronic conditions.

"This survey is clearly showing us a clustering of risk factors for poor health with significant numbers of people having two or more unhealthy behaviours."

Between a fifth and a third of the population engage in binge drinking (28%), sedentary behaviour (26%) and smoking (23%), according to the research.

Dr Holohan added: "The number of people experiencing chronic diseases is increasing.

"We know that the majority of chronic diseases are preventable or modifiable through lifestyle behaviour changes."

The survey was conducted by polling company Ipsos MRBI on behalf of the Department of Health.

It involved 7,498 interviews, carried out between September 2015 and May 2016.