Government papers: Northern Ireland’s abstinence ‘unique in Europe’

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A 1983 Department of Health paper examined what it said was Northern Ireland’s uniquely high level of non-drinkers.

It said the level of total abstinence was “possibly unique in Europe”, and added: “Approximately a half of all adult women and over a third of males report that they had not consumed any alcohol in the previous year.

“This is a very different situation from the rest of the UK where both male and female total abstinence levels appear at most 10 per cent of the adult population.”

It found that “predictably, those indicating high levels of religious motivation were significantly less likely to be consumers of alcohol”.

An earlier study from 1975 which involved interviews with 4,394 people selected from the electoral roll found that just over one per cent were alcoholic, while almost three per cent were “substantially pre-occupied with alcohol”.

Alcoholism was “almost a male pre-occupation”, the report, by a Dr Blaney of Queen’s University, found.

A Civil Service paper based on the report said: “The Blaney Report, therefore, has revealed that alcohol is misused in Northern Ireland to a very considerable degree and is a matter of serious concern.

“The extent of abnormal drinking among young males is so particularly disturbing that the department and the boards will have to be seen to be taking action to combat it.”