A call has been made to reduce the availability of alcohol, remove “dangerously cheap” alcohol from the market, and monitor the drink industry’s marketing practices.
Cllr Niall McNelis, who is a member of the Galway City Alcohol Forum, made the appeal in the wake of the publication of an HSE report which revealed that one in four people has been harmed by someone else’s drinking.
The national study outlined the harmful effect of alcohol on not only drinkers and their families but also on the general population and the workplace.
Entitled Alcohol’s Harm to Others in Ireland it examined alcohol’s negative effect on others for the first time in an Irish context. It confirmed that there is very significant harm associated with alcohol extending far beyond that experienced by the drinker.
It revealed that 28 per cent of people reported experiencing at least one or more negative consequences as a result of someone else’s drinking.
These included family difficulties, being a passenger with a drunk driver, physical assaults, property vandalism and money problems.
Cllr McNeilis, who is also a member of the city’s Joint Policing Committee, stresses the need to focus on the damage from alcohol to people other than the drinker.
“Some of alcohol’s harm to others is more visible in the public domain in communities such as assaults and property damage; while family and financial problems are less visible, but can have serious and chronic consequences for the wellbeing of the whole family.
“To address the issues we need to reduce the availability of alcohol, remove dangerously cheap alcohol, and monitor marketing practices by the industry.”
Evelyn Fanning of the HSE’s health promotion department and the chairperson of the forum, highlights the need for an integrated approach to the problem.
“We are in our second year of implementing the Galway City Alcohol strategy and there is a definite desire and will to undertake actions to prevent and reduce alcohol-related harm from agencies, community and voluntary groups and the public.”
She says the burden of alcohol-related harm is often experienced by those around the drinker, be they family members, friends, co-workers or “innocent bystander”.
“This new report endorses the need for an integrated approach to addressing alcohol-related harm as outlined in the Galway strategy which recognises the damage from alcohol to people other than the drinker. Addressing alcohol’s harm to others including children, young adults and workplaces is a priority.”
The report by the health authority was commissioned in response to a growing recognition of alcohol related harm and how it extends from the people who are drinking to those around them.
The HSE points out that the issue must be addressed as a matter of priority. It says that it is crucial that the Galway City Alcohol Forum’s strategy to prevent and reduce this harm continues to be supported and implemented.
Further findings from the study indicate that women are more likely to experience family problems (one in six ) while men are more likely to report assaults (one in nine ) due to other people’s drinking.
One in 10 workers experienced at least one or more negative consequences due to co-workers who were heavy drinkers, according to the publication. These included their ability to do their work being negatively affected, having to work extra hours, accidents or “close-calls” at work due to co-workers’ drinking habits.
Overall men (one in seven ) and workers in the youngest age group (one in six ) were the most likely to experience the negative consequences because of co-workers who were heavy drinkers. The overall rate of reported harms in the Irish workforce was double that of the Australian findings.
The study showed that one in 10 Irish parents/guardians reported that children experienced at least one or more harms in the past year as a result of someone else’s drinking. This included verbal abuse, being left in unsafe situations, witnessing serious violence in the home and physical abuse.
Parents who were regular “risky” drinkers were more likely to report (one in eight ) that children experienced at least one or more of the harms due to others drinking.