Underage Drinking

 alcohol campaign

30% of 16 year olds are regularly getting drunk - Knowing the facts about alcohol and how to talk to young people about alcohol can help to prevent the harm that teenage alcohol use can cause. Visit the HSE's Health Promotion Site to read more about Underage Drinking




HSE launches new Alcohol Awareness Campaign

19th May 2008:

The Health Service Executive has launched a new alcohol awareness campaign aimed at delaying the age at which young people start to drink.

The HSE Alcohol Awareness Campaign features a thought provoking television advertisement, depicting a number of young people in a variety of situations where they are exposed to and gain access to alcohol. The aim of the campaign is to increase awareness in adults about the extent of underage drinking, the ease of access which young people have to alcohol and the benefits in delaying the age at which young people start to drink.
The campaign has been launched as preliminary results of research carried out by the HSE reveal that:


  • 91% of adults agree that underage drinking is a problem in Ireland today
  • 50% of those questioned believe there is nothing they can do to stop young people from drinking alcohol
  • Just 15% believed their own drinking habits influence the drinking habits of young people around them
  • 81% of those questioned believe that it's easy for under 18's to access alcohol in pubs and off licences
  • Just 40% of those questioned would drink less if they thought it would discourage young people around them from drinking alcohol

Mary Wallace TD, Minister for Health Promotion and Food Safety said, "In order to tackle the problems associated with alcohol misuse we need to take responsibility both collectively and individually on the need to protect children and young people from the harms caused by alcohol misuse. I intend focusing on alcohol policy as a priority in my new role as Minister for Health Promotion."


Dr Joe Barry, Population Health Directorate, HSE, said "We now have a problem which impacts negatively on so many areas of society - from increases in sexually transmitted infections, public order offences and young adult suicide. There are many benefits to delaying the age at which young people start to drink; underage drinking is a risk factor for heavy drinking later in life and starting drinking in mid-teens increases four-fold the risk of alcohol dependence in later life. However, many adults simply do not realise the impact their alcohol intake has on their children. Young people's drinking behaviour is very often modelled on those observed in adults so it is particularly important that children and young people are equipped with the skills and knowledge to cope when faced with choices about alcohol."

Catherine Murphy, Assistant National Director for Population Health, Health Promotion, Health Service Executive, said, "This campaign is aimed at all adults, children and teenagers and those who purchase alcohol for teenagers. There is a perception that teenage drinking is an inevitable rite of passage despite the fact that there is a wealth of evidence pointing to the damage that it can do. We hope this campaign will encourage adults to support young people in delaying the age at which they start to drink alcohol."

To support the campaign the HSE has available a number of alcohol awareness booklets. The purpose of these booklets is to help parents discuss the issue of alcohol with their teenagers and assist adults in reflecting on their own alcohol use. 'Straight Talk - a guide for parents on teenage drinking' and 'Less is More' -, both of which can be accessed at www.hse.ie or through the HSE Infoline 1850 24 1850.




Omnibus research commissioned by the Health Service Executive and carried out by Millward Brown IMS between 24th April and 9th May 2008 on 900 adults aged 18 years and over. Results mentioned above are preliminary and based on 354 interviews.

Editor's Notes


  • The Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children (HBSC) Study 2006 found that one third of Irish 15-17 year olds reported having been drunk in the previous thirty days
  • A report from the Health Research Board showed that alcohol consumption in the Irish population has increased by 17% over the past 11 years, from 11.5 litres per adult in 1995 to 13.4 litres in 2006, well above the EU average. This rise in consumption has led to increases in alcohol related harm and disease, putting increasing pressure on health and hospital services. Alcohol related hospital admissions increased by 88% between 1995 and 2004
  • Early alcohol consumption is associated with an increased likelihood of developing alcohol abuse or dependence later in life - research shows that people who drink before they turn 15 are four times more likely to develop alcoholism than those who start drinking at the age of 21
  • Research studies over the last decade have shown that alcohol affects an adolescent brain differently from an adult brain
  • A total of 1,775 people died as a result of problem alcohol use between 1995 and 2004. The General Mortality Register shows that the number of alcohol-related deaths doubled in this period.

The recent HSE report 'Alcohol Related Harm in Ireland' revealed the following:

  • A national study involving 2,500 patients in six major hospitals across the country found that over one in four (28%) of all injury attendances in the A&E departments were alcohol related
  • In a national study of young adults (18 - 45 age group) on Irish contraception and crisis pregnancy, almost of half of the men (45%) and a quarter of the women (26%) agreed that drinking alcohol had contributed to them having sex without using contraception
  • Between 1990 and 2006 there were a total of 7,078 people killed on the roads, of which 2,462 were alcohol related
  • Alcohol has been identified as a contributory factor in 97% of public order offences as recorded under the PULSE system
  • In a national survey, almost half (44%) of all respondents had experienced harm by their own or someone else's use of alcohol.




Last updated on: 19 / 05 / 2008