Concern about the effects on children of increased drinking at home during the pandemic have been expressed in the latest official alcohol study.

The Health Research Board (HRB) has found that alcohol consumption overall has plateaued at a high level in Ireland since 2013.

The average Irish person drank the equivalent of 40 bottles of vodka in 2019, which is the ninth highest alcohol consumption rate in the world.

The report quoted figures from the Revenue Commissioners which showed that alcohol consumption had only dropped by 6.5% last March despite pubs being largely closed over the previous year.

Co-author of the report and research officer with the HRB Dr Deirdre Mongan said the signs point to increased drinking at home.

"This is concerning in particular for households with children, as research shows that children exposed to parental drinking at high levels are vulnerable to adverse outcomes."

It quoted studies from the UK that have shown that even non-dependent alcohol consumption by parents is linked to a higher incidence of alcohol-related hospitalisation for their children later in life.

Pre-pandemic statistics in Ireland show that around one third of Irish children live with at least one parent who is either a binge drinker or alcohol dependent.

One-in-six carers reported that children for whom they had parental responsibility experienced harm as a result of someone else's drinking ranging from 4% witnessing serious violence to 12% who reported being "negatively affected".

The report also found that nearly two thirds of 17-year-olds had been "really drunk" with a slightly higher proportion being girls.

This is the first time girls have reported higher levels of drunkenness and the report stated "this finding is of concern, as research indicates that girls may be more susceptible to the neurotoxic effects of alcohol on the adolescent brain than boys".

An average of three people died every day from alcohol in Ireland in 2017 with 70% of those under 65 years of age.

There were positive findings, according to the report, with less drunkenness being reported among 13 to 15-year-olds in 2019 compared to the previous study.

Also 25% of Irish people said they did not drink alcohol at all in the past year compared to just 18% in England.

The report states that the planned minimum unit pricing for alcohol will be necessary to reduce consumption.

Dr Mongan stated: "Irish data shows that the heaviest drinkers buy the cheapest alcohol. Minimum Unit Pricing is designed to target the heaviest drinkers who seek the cheapest prices, which means it can have the greatest effect among those who experience the most harm."

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