Alcohol has major impact on health and economy

Wednesday 22nd June 2016 - Deborah Condon , Irish Health View Article Here

Three people died every day in 2013 as a result of alcohol consumption, a new report has revealed.

According to the findings, the number of people discharged from hospital that year whose condition was totally attributable to alcohol use, was 17,120. This marks an 82% increase when compared to 1995's figure of 9,420.

The report by the Health Research Board (HRB) is based on newly compiled data from the hospital inpatient reporting system. It revealed that in 2014, Irish drinkers consumed an average of 11 litres of pure alcohol each - that is equivalent to 116 bottles of wine, 29 litres of vodka or 445 pints of beer.

The amount of alcohol being consumed and the way that some people consume it, i.e. binge drinking, is having a major impact on the health of many, the report found.

Aside from the big increase in alcohol-related hospital discharges, there has also been an increase in the average length of stay. In 1995, patients with alcohol-related issues stayed an average of six days in hospital. By 2013, this had risen to 10 days. This suggests that alcohol-related cases are becoming more complex.

The report also found that the rate of hospital discharges involving patients with alcoholic liver disease increased three-fold between 1995 and 2013, and the highest rate of increase was seen in people aged between 15 and 34.

"The fact the highest rate of increase was found in 15-34 year olds is a real public health concern as alcoholic liver disease usually develops after a number of years of harmful drinking, and as a result it is normally seen in older people. However, these increases would reflect the high occurrence of harmful drinking patterns that have been observed in numerous Irish surveys over the past decade," commented the report lead's author, HRB research officer, Dr Deirdre Mongan.

Meanwhile, the report also revealed that:
-Between 2001 and 2012, one in 10 cases of breast cancer was attributable to alcohol 
-In 2014, one-third of self-harm presentations to hospital were related to alcohol
-The number of people discharged from hospital whose condition was partially attributable to alcohol increased from 52,491 in 2007 to 57,110 in 2011.

Aside from impacting people's health, this use of alcohol is also having a major impact on the economy and the tax payer. Alcohol-related discharges cost the tax payer €1.5 billion per year. In 2012, this was equivalent to €1 in every €10 spent on public health.

Furthermore, the estimated cost of alcohol-related absenteeism in 2013 was over €41 million and at the end of 2013, over 5,300 people on the Live Register had lost their job as a result of alcohol use.

"This report clearly illustrates how Irish peoples' drinking patterns are harming their health, increasing public health care costs and negatively impacting productivity. If we want to address these harms as a society, then it is important that evidence-based public health responses are used, like those proposed in the new Public Health Alcohol Bill," commented HRB chief executive, Dr Graham Love.

The Public Health Alcohol Bill contains a number of measures aimed at reducing alcohol-related harm in Ireland, including health warnings on alcohol products, the introduction of minimum unit pricing, restrictions on the use of price-based promotions and reducing children's exposure to alcohol marketing.

"The Public Health Alcohol Bill is the first legislation of its kind in Ireland, as it treats alcohol as the serious public health problem that this HRB report clearly demonstrates it is. It presents evidence-based solutions that can create an environment where it is easier for people to make healthier decisions in relation to their alcohol consumption and where we can begin to reduce alcohol harm and make Ireland a healthier and safer place for all of us," commented Conor Cullen of Alcohol Action Ireland.

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