Ireland ranks third in world for number of pubs per head, but more people are becoming teetotallers, new report reveals

Although a significant number of pubs have closed in the last decade, there has been an increase in off-licences.

The picture emerges in a report from the Health Research Board (HRB) and comes amid a debate about the impact of extended opening hours for pubs and nightclubs.

The average annual consumption for people aged 15 years and over last year was 9.9 litres of pure alcohol – the equivalent to 37 bottles of vodka (70cl), 104 bottles of wine or 400 pints of beer.

However, there are more people who are now ­teetotallers compared to previous years.

Anne Doyle, HRB research officer and lead author of the report, said: “This is the first time that we have looked at accessibility to alcohol in detail. Using geospatial analysis, we also found there is a greater density of licensed ­premises in deprived communities.

“This is significant because evidence shows that people in deprived areas are more likely to experience alcohol-related harms, despite consumption being lower or equal to affluent areas.”

The findings are part of a wider HRB overview on alcohol availability, affordability, related harm and policy in Ireland.

They show almost one in three people aged 15 years and over do not drink at all, with an increase in abstainers from 25pc in 2018 to 30pc in 2022.

However, it shows harmful and hazardous drinking patterns are affecting people’s health and health services.

Alcohol use is the eighth leading cause of death in Ireland, with one person ­dying every day due to alcohol-related liver disease.

In addition, more than one in three road user fatalities had been drinking prior to the incident.

Alcohol also factors in one in five emergency department hospitalisations and almost 19,000 hospitalisations were attributable to alcohol alone in 2021.

The number of people receiving treatment for alcohol use in 2022 was higher than that of cocaine and cannabis combined. Forty five per cent completed their treatment course and more than half of people were alcohol-free when leaving treatment.

Ireland is ranked eighth out of 30 countries for the proportion of household income spent on alcohol. Although alcohol has increased in price, it has kept in line with inflation.

There were 5,527 incidents of drink-driving and 9,917 incidents of drunkenness recorded on the garda’s Pulse system in 2022.

HRB chief executive Mairéad O’Driscoll said: “The increase in the number of people choosing not to drink and the decline in consumption per capita is positive. The way many people drink is harmful, reflected in alcohol-related hospitalisations and deaths, as well as high numbers of people receiving treatment for problem alcohol use.”

Restrictions are in place on advertising, separation of alcohol from other products in supermarkets and shops and minimum unit price.

By 2026, Ireland will also have the most comprehensive health warning labels on alcohol products in the world.

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