New research on alcohol consumption suggests that moderate drinkers have better income levels than those who do not drink.

Details of the study, carried out by Dr Gillian Ormond of UCC, are being outlined at an economics conference in NUI Galway.

The research involved a detailed analysis of data provided by 10,000 respondents, who took part in the Slán survey - a national lifestyle and attitudes poll.

A total of 28% were non-drinkers, almost two thirds were classified as moderate and the remainder were heavy drinkers, consuming more than the recommended weekly amounts of alcohol for men or women.

While the difference between the income of moderate and heavy drinkers  was very small, non-drinkers were found to earn substantially less than both other categories.

Dr Ormond says the findings mirror research conducted elsewhere but she pointed out that the Government's Steering Group on Alcohol Policy did not consider the benefits of moderate consumption in its 2012 report.

She says that some of the recommendations from the Steering Group would have a negative impact on some moderate drinkers and could result in them reducing their consumption.

Most of the suggested policy changes centred on the supply of alcohol, increased taxation and advertising.

Dr Ormond says a target based approach to policy, rather than a population based approach, would be preferable.

She recommends that policies be tailored more specifically.

At risk individuals should be targeted to ensure that when they drink they do so in as safe a manner as possible and selective enforcement of policies around the misuse of alcohol would ensure that all individuals were protected from harm. 

The presentation on the effect of alcohol consumption on household income is being made at the Irish Society of New Economists conference. It is being held over two days at NUI Galway.