As alcoholic liver disease rises, particularly in younger people, fewer than one in 10 college students said they would curb their drinking for the good of their health.
However, students are twice as likely to reduce their drinking because of the cost — one in five said price would influence their consumption.
The survey of first year UCC students was discussed at the Irish Society of Gastroenterology’s (ISG) annual winter meeting in Dublin. The ISG has urged the introduction of legislation aimed at curbing excessive drink consumption.
The research is worrying as there was a trebling of hospital admissions of patients with alcoholic liver disease from 1995 to 2010.
Nearly 40% of students admitted going out with the intention of getting drunk.
Asked what would cause them to drink less, 29% said sports participation and 21% said an increase in the price of alcohol, while 19% said exam preparation.
The study found students would often have more than six drinks on a night out.
The vast majority (96%) consumed alcohol and spent an average of €20 a week on drinks.
Drinkers aged 18 to 29 have the highest level of alcohol consumption among drinkers — two out of five binge drink weekly.
The ISG has warned that hospital admissions and deaths due to alcohol continue to surge.
Data from St Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin shows a 335% increase in admissions of patients with alcoholic liver disease between 1995 and 2010.
There were 14,000 people admitted to hospital for alcohol dependence in 2011 and a doubling of deaths related to cirrhosis of the liver between 1994 and 208.
Consultant hepatologist at Cork University Hospital, Dr Orla Crosbie, said 20 years ago alcoholic liver disease was primarily a disease of men in their 50s. Now women made up 40% of the patients. “I believe in another decade the numbers will be equal,” she said.
She called for a minimum unit price on drink and restricted availability and promotion. “While we can increase education abut the danger of excessive alcohol consumption when it comes to the crunch people do respond to cost... Cheap drinks promotions for students, which are a regular feature of Irish college life, should be banned under legislation.”
Next month the Union of Students in Ireland will launch a national campaign on alcohol awareness.
USI vice-president for welfare Greg O’Donoghue said they wanted students to reflect on the negative effects of alcohol on their physical and mental health in a different way.
Mr O’Donoghue said the challenge was to change the culture of drinking, and that more alcohol awareness was the best way to do this.
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