Harmful alcohol consumption is responsible for more deaths worldwide than Aids, violence, and tuberculosis put together.
Hazardous drinking is also on the rise internationally among young people, and especially young women.
The reason, according to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, is mostly due to alcohol becoming cheaper and more available.
The study shows that Irish people drink significantly more than the average for people in the OECD, at 11.6 litres of pure alcohol per person compared with 9.1 litres.
The heaviest drinkers in Ireland are poorer, less educated men and wealthier, better educated women.
Harmful drinking rose among certain groups, particularly children and young women. Children were drinking at an earlier age and girls were catching up to boys.
In 2001, less than 30% of 15-year-olds had ever been drunk. This increased to 40% by 2010.
The proportion of children who have experienced drunkenness increased from 30% to 43% of boys, and from 26% to 41% of girls.
However, Ireland is bucking this trend, with just 38% of 15-year-olds having tasted alcohol in 2010, compared to 75% in the UK, where such consumption rose from 73% in 2002. At the other end of the scale, 94% of Czech children aged 15 and under tasted alcohol.
‘Tackling Harmful Alcohol Use: Economics and Public Health Policy’ says that tax increases that would raise alcohol prices by 10% were among the most effective means of countering excessive consumption.
The publication is the OECD’s first major report on harmful alcohol use and its impact on public health.
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