Women half as likely as men to recognise a problem with alcohol

One in five men who are dependent on alcohol are aware of their behaviour, but only one in ten women are, study shows
Women half as likely as men to recognise a problem with alcohol

The HSE’s recommended low-risk weekly drinking guideline is 16 standard drinks per week for men and 11 standard drinks for women. A standard drink is a half pint of beer, 100ml of wine (7.5 glasses in a bottle) or a pub measure of spirit.

Women who drink too much are half as likely as their male counterparts to see themselves as having a problem.

While one in five men who are dependent on alcohol are aware of their behaviour, only one in ten women are, according to the Health Research Board (HRB).

The HRB also found that two-thirds of people who regularly binge are unaware of their drinking pattern.

In a report entitled Drinking in Denial in Ireland, published in the British Medical Journal, the HRB said it is “particularly concerning” that so many Irish people with alcohol dependence believe themselves to be light or moderate drinkers.

It said factors associated with self-awareness of hazardous or harmful drinking include having a higher educational level and engaging in other high-risk behaviours, such as illicit drug use and gambling.

Those aged over 65 are also significantly less likely to be aware of their harmful drinking.

On gender, the HRB said: “While overall trends among women and men were similar, women who were alcohol dependent were less likely to describe themselves as heavy drinkers (one in ten) than men (one in five).” 

The HSE’s recommended low-risk weekly drinking guideline is 16 standard drinks per week for men and 11 standard drinks for women. 

A standard drink is a half-pint of beer, 100ml of wine (7.5 glasses in a bottle), or a pub measure of spirit.

Binge drinking is defined as drinking six standards drinks on a single occasion — meaning three pints of beer or less than a bottle of wine.

Hazardous drinkers are classified as those who engaged in binge drinking at least monthly in the previous year.

The research is based on a detailed analysis of information generated from a prevalence study in 2014 and 2015 of over 7,000 people.

It found that almost half of drinkers had a hazardous or harmful pattern of drinking; 38% engaged in monthly binge drinking, and 10.5% met criteria for alcohol dependence. 

The analysis of the survey found that of those who had a hazardous or harmful pattern of drinking, 67% were unaware of this and saw themselves as light or moderate drinkers.

Lead researcher Dr Deirdre Mongan said: “The results of the study highlight that patterns of alcohol use in Ireland are problematic, and that a large proportion of Irish people may be unaware or in denial about the potential harmful effects of their drinking.

“It is particularly concerning that so many Irish people with alcohol dependence believe themselves to be light or moderate drinkers.” 

The report backed “a comprehensive and sustained public health messaging campaign”.

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