Women in Ireland consume an average of three alcoholic drinks a day and rank higher than men here in a global table of alcohol consumption.

The findings are part of a major global study, which has concluded that there is no safe limit to alcohol consumption.

The research found that women in Ireland drink 3.1 alcoholic drinks daily, ranking them seventh in the world, behind Ukraine, Andorra, Luxembourg, Belarus, Sweden and Denmark.

Men in Ireland did not feature in the top ten list published by the study.

The Alcohol Health Alliance Ireland has said the Government should enact the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill.

The bill provides the legislative basis for minimum pricing for alcohol and for the inclusion of health warnings on alcohol products.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Miriam O'Callaghan, Professor Frank Murray, Chair of Alcohol Health Alliance Ireland, said the study was the most comprehensive estimate of the global burden of alcohol ever done.

"I would argue that we should moderate the amount we drink very dramatically here in Ireland," he said.

"Many of us have become habitual drinkers, drinking every day, particularly ‘wine o'clock’, and I think we should reflect on that and cut down our alcohol substantially and more importantly we should enact the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill.to reduce our harmful relationship with alcohol."

Prof Murray said the alcohol industry has greatly exaggerated the benefits of alcohol consumption.

He said there is no reason to drink alcohol for the benefit of our help and it is a harmful product at all levels of consumption.

Prof Murray said in his job as a liver doctor, he has seen a tidal wave of women coming in with liver failure and dying.

Scientists have claimed that going teetotal is the only way to avoid risking health with alcohol.

Previous research suggested that moderate levels of alcohol - around one drink a day for women and two for men - may protect against heart disease.

However the authors of the new study insist that any benefits from drinking alcohol are outweighed by the harms.

They estimate that consuming just one drink per day increases the risk of developing one of 23 alcohol-related health problems by 0.5%, compared with not drinking at all.

US lead researcher Dr Max Griswold, from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, said: "Previous studies have found a protective effect of alcohol on some conditions, but we found that the combined health risks associated with alcohol increase with any amount of alcohol.

"In particular, the strong association between alcohol consumption and the risk of cancer, injuries, and infectious diseases offset the protective effects for ischaemic heart disease in women in our study.

"Although the health risks associated with alcohol start off being small with one drink a day, they then rise rapidly as people drink more."

The scientists pooled together data from 592 studies with a total of 28 million participants to assess the global health risks associated with alcohol.

A standard alcohol drink was defined as one containing 10 grams of alcohol.

The team used a new statistical method to estimate the risks of consuming between zero and 15 standard alcohol drinks each day.

Globally, around one in three people - or 2.4 billion - drink alcohol, said the researchers, whose findings are reported in The Lancet medical journal.

Each year, 2.2% of women and 6.8% of men die from alcohol-related health problems including cancer, tuberculosis and liver disease.

Other harmful consequences from drinking alcohol included accidents and violence.

Worldwide, drinking alcohol was the seventh leading risk factor for overall premature death and disease in 2016, the study found.

However among people aged 15-to-49 it was the most important risk factor, accounting for 3.8% of women's and 12.2% of men's deaths.

For people over the age of 50, cancers were the leading cause of alcohol-related deaths. They were responsible for 27.1% of alcohol-related deaths of women and 18.9% of men.

The 0.5% increase in risk meant that 918 people per 100,000 who consumed one alcoholic drink a day would develop a health problem compared with 914 who did not drink.

The relative increase in risk rose to 7% for people who consumed two drinks a day and soared to 37% for those who downed five drinks.

Any protection against heart disease, stroke and diabetes offered by alcohol turned out to be "not statistically significant", said the researchers.

Drinking patterns varied greatly around the world, the study found.

Denmark had the highest proportion of alcohol consumers, 95.3% of women and 97.3% of men, and Pakistan and Bangladesh the lowest. Just 0.8% of Pakistani men and 0.3% of Bangladeshi women drank alcohol.

Men in Romania and women in Ukraine drank the most - 8.2 and 4.2 drinks per day respectively.

Professor Emmanuela Gakidou, from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, said: "Worldwide we need to revisit alcohol control policies and health programmes, and to consider recommendations for abstaining from alcohol." 


Population Average of Standard Drinks Daily (all ages 2016)

Males - Greatest number of drinks

1. Romania 8.2
2. Portugal 7.3
3. Luxembourg 7.3
4. Lithuania 7.0
5. Ukraine 7.0
6. Bosnia and Herzegovina 6.5
7. Belarus 6.0
8. Estonia 6.0
9. Spain 5.8
10. Hungary 5.5

Females - Greatest number of drinks

1. Ukraine 4.2
2. Andorra 3.4
3. Luxembourg 3.4
4. Belarus 3.4
5. Sweden 3.2
6. Denmark 3.2
7. Ireland 3.1
8. UK 3.0
9. Germany 2.9
10. Switzerland 2.8