Unfortunately it has widely been acknowledged that Northern Ireland has a serious ‘alcohol problem’, in terms of consumption levels, health issues and the wider social impact on individuals, families and communities.
There were 270 (Provisional figure) deaths in 2012 and the toll has risen by around 50% over the last decade. The largest number of deaths happened in those aged 45-54 and the most deprived were most likely to die.
In recent years a real financial cost figure placed on the impact of alcohol ranges from £750 – £900 million p.a. that converts to around one tenth of the entire block grant from Westminster.
There are multiple factors which have altered the impact of alcohol on society over the past 20 years, the availability and affordability of alcohol, increased disposable income and the targeting of alcohol companies with marketing and advertising strategies.
The price changes and promotional nights held by many Bars and Alcohol companies have assisted in fuelling the binge culture which is prevalent in society today. Going out for a ‘session’ with friends or ‘pre-loading’ before going out are terms now common in current alcohol culture, with many drinkers still unaware of the unit and calorie content of a nights consumption.
The most common drinks consumed are wine (48%) and beer (47%) , coincidently the 2 types of drinks advertised most by alcohol companies.
Millions are spent on prime time television, whether it be half-time beer advertisments in the Champions League, or wine companies sponsoring the ‘The Good Wife’ and ‘Friends’, alcohol companies are targeting specific groups of people with specific products to enhance sales and trigger the thoughts of alcohol consumption.
The following results are based on those respondents who drank alcohol in the week prior to the survey. (Taken from Adult drinking Patterns Survey NISRA, conducted on behalf of the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, examines the amount people drink, when, where and what they drink and who they drink with).1