On average, an Irish over 15 years old drank the equivalent of 200 litres of beer every year. Alcohol consumption is still the same as 30 years ago but beer is being replaced by wine and spirits.
Most Irish consider themselves as moderate drinkers
According to the Ireland Health Research Board, an Irish over 15 years old drank on average 10.8 litres of pure alcohol in 2019.
It was the equivalent to 436 pints of beer at 4.3% of alcohol by volume – more than one a day – or 113 bottles of wine, or 39 bottles of whiskey. (The report preferred comparing it with vodka bottles than whiskey).
Moreover, 1/4 of the Irish population abstain from alcohol completely, which means that those who drink alcohol consume even greater quantities.
Those who drink consume the equivalent to more than a pint and a half a day (574/year). More than half of Irish drinkers are classified as hazardous drinkers. Yet, almost 3 drinkers in 4 perceive themselves are light (50%) or moderate drinkers (24%).
The Irish Government had a goal of reducing alcohol consumption in the country by 2020. The quantity recorded was 19% higher than the original objective of 9.1 litres of alcohol per capita for 2020.
In fact, Irish never drank less than 10 litres of pure alcohol per person in the last 30 years. After a peak of alcohol consumption in the early 2000s, with 14.3 litres in 2001, the quantity absorbed in the past few years was similar to that of 30 years ago.
Fewer beers in pubs but more wine and spirits at home
The consumption pattern changed though. They actually drank more pints in the 90s than nowadays.
In 1989, 70% of the alcohol absorbed came from drinking beer. But the ratio kept decreasing and beer is only 44% of the mix now, compensated by the increase in wine (28%) and spirits (21%).
So the actual repartition of drinks is closer to the following: on average, each person aged 15 years and over in Ireland drank 195 pints of beer, 28 pints of cider, 31 bottles of wine, and 8 bottles of whiskey in 2019.
The report also suggests people drink less in pubs. Between 1999 and 2018, the number of pub licences dropped by 22%. The pubs are so deserted that authorities think of them as potential places for co-working offices and start-up incubators to save them now.
Ireland has the ninth highest per capita alcohol consumption rate of all OECD member countries. The heaviest drinkers are Latvians with 12.6 litres, followed by Austrians (12.6) and Czechs (11.8).
Media sources and useful links:
- Alcohol consumption, alcohol-related harm and alcohol policy in Ireland, Health Research Board, April 2021, Free access
- Alcohol consumption, OECD, 2018, Free access
- Will Irish Pubs Become the Next Start-up Incubators?, Newsendip, March 2021, Free access