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40pc of women here drink to harmful levels

ALMOST half of women are drinking to harmful levels, a shocking new survey has found.

Research also found that female drinkers are now accounting for one quarter of all alcohol-related hospital admissions.

A study by Alcohol Action Ireland has discovered that 40pc of women drinkers in Ireland are drinking to harmful levels.

Director Fiona Ryan said that although alcohol is something many people enjoy, it was important to recognise the health risks that go hand-in-hand with drinking.

"Women are more affected by alcohol than men are -- it's not sexist, it's a fact," she said.

"We are smaller, we metabolise drink at a slower rate and it affects our vital organs more."

Between 1995 and 2004, there was a 29pc increase in the number of Irish teenage girls under 18 discharged from hospital for alcohol-related conditions. This compares to an increase of 9pc for boys.

With four in 10 women drinkers in Ireland already drinking to harmful levels, Ms Ryan said it is vital now more than ever that women be made more aware of the health-risks associated with alcohol.



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Ms Ryan said that drinking just one standard drink a day could be harmful for women and could increase the risk of breast cancer by 9pc.

If a woman takes three to six drinks a day, the risk of cancer increases by as much as 41pc.

Ms Ryan said that since 1995, Irish teenage girls have been drinking as much and sometimes more than their male counterparts.

"In the same period, the proportion of Irish teenage girls discharged from hospital for alcohol-related conditions increased by almost a third," she said.

Women who drink four or more drinks a day are five times more likely than non-drinkers to develop mouth, oropharynx and laryngeal cancers and eight times more likely to experience haemorrhagic stroke, Ms Ryan explained.

And the director added that a man who drinks six or more standard drinks a day is 13 times more likely to develop cirrhosis of the liver compared to a non-drinker.

But a woman needs to only drink four standard drinks a day -- about half a bottle of wine -- to increase her risk of developing cirrhosis to the same degree.

clairemurphy@herald.ie