New data from Brussels indicates that Ireland has by far the highest proportion of regular drinkers of alcohol in the European Union.

The research by Eurostat, the EU statistical agency, shows that Irish people are twice as likely to be regular drinkers of alcohol compared with the European average.

The figures also show a dramatic rise in alcohol consumption by young Irish women.

According to Eurostat, 50% of Irish women aged 15 to 24 are regular drinkers, compared with the EU average of 19%. In Italy the figure is just 5%.

In the same age category, 53% of Irish men are regular drinkers, compared with the EU average of 33%. This figure increases to 80% for men in the 25 to 34 age group, compared with an EU average of 36%. The second highest figure is the Netherlands at 55%.

Across all age categories, 51% of Irish people are regular drinkers of alcohol, followed by 44% of British people and 43% of Danes. The EU average is 25%, while the Italians have the lowest rate at just 12%.

86% of Irish people believe they lead a healthy lifestyle, compared with the EU average of 80%.

The data is found in Health Statistics - Key Data on Health 2002.