Is Ireland's Changing Drinking Culture Sustainable?

Research has shown a shift in adults' view of the role of alcohol in Irish lives.

A midlands Behavioural Psychologist says there's still significant work required to ensure there are meaningful and lasting improvements to Ireland's attitude to drinking culture.

WEstmeath's Padraig Walsh is making the comments as new research by Drinkaware revealed the beliefs, attitudes and social norms that feed into Irish drinking culture are changing for the better after it had historically translated into a negative stereotype.

Four in 10 adults and almost half of 18–24-year-olds believe “Irish drinking culture has changed for the better over the last three years”.  

Half of respondents disagree that “drinking to excess is just part of Irish culture” compared to 2019 when 19% disagreed, while 63% of Irish adults disagree that “we all drink to excess at some stage, it’s no big deal”. 38% disagreed with that statement in 2019.

It also found there has been an increase in levels of binge drinking, which is six+ standard drinks in a single sitting, over the past three years, with 1 in 4 binge drinking as their norm.

Irish adults mental wellbeing has remained low and has not returned to pre-pandemic levels.   

Drinkaware will continue to deliver and expand its work that directly addresses the public’s knowledge and understanding of what binge, risky and low risk drinking is, and how alcohol impacts mental wellbeing. 

Mr. Walsh, from Bunbrosna, is a Behavioural Psychologist with, who remarked:  “As humans, we are social beings. Our actions are influenced by those around us and the cultural expectations that envelop us. This is particularly pertinent when we consider our national drinking behaviour and the attitudes that surround it. The findings from this research further highlight that excessive drinking is becoming more socially unacceptable and is seen as a big deal by 3 out of 4 adults.  This data also suggests that Individual attitudes towards drinking are shifting and consequently framing our collective viewpoint of alcohol consumption. Attitude change and a behavioural shift often go hand in hand, however a time-lag often exists between the two. Significant work is still required to ensure that these attitudinal changes translate into meaningful and lasting improvements. It is particularly notable that the trend is towards younger people seeing a positive change in Irish drinking culture, pointing towards a potential cultural tipping point where younger generations eschew binge drinking.” 
Drinkaware CEO Sheena Horgan commented: “Drinkaware’s annual Barometer survey shows us the real time behaviours and attitudes of Irish adults towards alcohol. Having asked these culture questions in the 2019 survey, we felt it was time to ask them again to see if there had been a cultural shift, because a positive culture leads to positive behaviour and vice versa. The research shows that there has been a seismic positive shift in how Irish adults relate alcohol consumption to Irish culture. In particular, the belief that drinking alcohol to excess is an accepted and expected part of our culture has greatly decreased and the public are more aware that drinking to excess is harmful and in fact a ‘big deal.’As a nation, Ireland has a lot to be very proud of, but our rich, diverse, and beautiful culture is too often overshadowed with a negative drinking narrative that is simply outdated. There’s been a lot of talk about a new mindful approach to drinking, that is quantifiably evident in the data and it’s important to acknowledge the attitudinal and behavioural improvements that are taking place. Of course, there is still more progress to be made, especially regarding levels of excessive/binge drinking and the accepted use of alcohol to cope with difficulties.  Drinkaware actively supports the public with the tools, resources, tips, and advice to address these, and to constantly push for and promote sustainable and sustained positive change regarding alcohol. This upcoming St Patrick’s Day we are encouraging the public to expect more from our national day of culture and celebrate Irish culture how it deserves to be celebrated, positively, safely and mindfully.”  

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