I love Ireland for the craic, but does the glass always have to be half full? Or full even…

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It appears, that despite puritans on Instagram posting photos of themselves working out and being smug- Irish females overwhelmingly just like to just get rat arsed.

A comprehensive global survey by the Lancet Medical Journal which encompassed 189 countries, found that Irish women drink a lot. Of those surveyed only women in Lithuania, Moldova and the Czech Republic outpace us.

The number of Irish ladies who indulge in ‘heavy episodic drinking”, or drinking six or more drinks at least once a month – stands at 40 percent, while over 60 percent of Irish teenage girls binge drink. Irish adults consume more than 13 litres of alcohol annually- each.

There’s a plethora of reasons why we drink too much – our culture, our addictive personalities, the inclement weather, the church, 800 years of English oppression (yawn), stress, kids, no kids, pubs, great pints, wine o’clock, our parents, mental health issues, lack of alternatives, peer pressure, laziness, denial, but let’s face it, it’s also due to a lack of imagination.

Ireland isn’t California, where you can go surfing in the morning and skiing in the afternoon. We don’t enjoy a year round outdoor culture. We have extremely busy lives and live far apart from one another, so when we meet as a collective- we mostly just drink. It’s great craic, but predictable and non committal.

Social media and the cult of busy means people are less likely to want to do things communally, other than have a few pints when it suits them. This allows for cancellations and dropout culture to prevail.

I’ve aborted many efforts to meet up ‘for coffee,’ and am still waiting for someone to take me up on that Saturday hiking offer I’ve been throwing out since the 1990s.

“But you can’t blame people,” Dublin based psychotherapist Gerry Hickey says. “Women particularly, lead extremely stressful, fragmented lives combining work and often children, while also looking after elderly parents, so alcohol is an outlet.” Also, Ireland is set up for drinking and we feel we’re left with little choice socially. “You get snubbed for ordering a coffee in a pub, taking up valuable drinking space.”

Drinking at home is the biggest issue for women, but when they go out, alcohol like gin and wine, are marketed towards them and have become dangerously glamourised, he adds.

“Alcohol is worse than any drug. It’s socially acceptable and people still aren’t taking it seriously. Women are more prone to develop liver problems than men, because their bodies don’t process it as quickly,” professor Colin O’Gara, head of addiction services at St John of God hospital says. “A healthy intake of alcohol is 11 units per week. A 750 ml bottle of wine at 13 percent alcohol has 10 units, and people often drink one per night at home and socialise at the weekends on top of that.”

According to Alcohol Action Ireland, drinking one standard alcoholic drink a day is associated with a 9 percent increase in the risk of breast cancer, while three to six drinks a day increases the risk by 41 percent.

Between 2001 and 2010, 1700 female cancer deaths in Ireland, were attributable to alcohol. “Unfortunately, despite the fact that people are doing triathlons and are seen to be healthier, we still have a massive issue with alcohol. At the front line, we have women presenting with mental health issues, anxiety and addictions to prescription drugs, but also with liver cirrhosis and other physical health problems.”   

Again stress and modern life is to blame, but I don’t buy it. We all have ‘busy, stressful lives’ and yet we always find time for going on the piss. Lots of time. If I were to add up my lost weekends with friends and the subsequent recovery, years have been wasted. Literally.

We need to be more American, where people with families drive for hours just to go camping with friends at the weekends. Some think nothing of driving thousands of miles from Florida to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada to Burning Man or other events. They plan for a year, bring supplies, and everyone helps out and builds camps. Booze is omnipresent, but no one will get hammered like we would.

When I’m in Germany – my other country of heritage, adults- even busy ones are members of clubs, ski clubs or tennis, badminton, fencing etc and they do social stuff together. These clubs are free or very inexpensive and offer a healthy alternative to boozing.

In Ireland, pubs and social activities are booze centered- like pub quizzes or book clubs. Then there’s the lack of amenities- and the bloody rain. Also who wants to drive 30 Km to go karting on a Friday night?

Men, it seems, are more likely to do things like fishing or playing soccer or rugby when they get together, whereas when adult women meet, they want to de-stress, not more stress.

Doing activities alone is totally fine, but when it comes to socialising, we need a middle ground. I love Ireland because of our huge capacity for craic, but it’s one sided.

Maybe this new Ireland people are talking about could be a haven for fun, but also a place where people go hiking together sometime, or maybe even a walk somewhere.

I live in hope.

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