Australians drink at dangerous levels
Date: August 26 2006
MORE Australians are drinking at dangerous levels, resulting in high numbers of deaths and injuries, and high health costs.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics' snapshot of alcohol consumption in Australia for 2004-05 shows one in every eight adults drinks at harmful levels.
The rate of adults drinking has increased by almost 3 percentage points since 2001, jumping from 10.8 per cent in 2001 to 13.4 per cent in 2004-05.
While most Australians (78 per cent) drink at a "low" health-risk level four standard drinks a day for men and two for women there are 2 million Australians consuming alcohol at rates considered "risky" or "high risk".
Although more men (15 per cent) than women (12 per cent) drank at harmful levels, more women have contributed to the overall increase. Since 1995, the number of women drinking at dangerous levels has increased 5.5 per cent, compared with a 4.9 per cent increase for men.
The preferred drink for those who get drunk was beer for men and wine for women.
Binge and under-age drinking are also problems. Binge drinking among people aged 18 and over was 48 per cent for men and 30 per cent for women over the year.
In 2004, 25 per cent of those aged 14-19 drank alcohol daily or weekly.
Young people were also more likely to engage in risky behaviour, such as swimming, driving, unsafe or unwanted sex, and physical abuse.
About half the indigenous adults surveyed (49 per cent) had consumed alcohol in the week before the survey. Of these, 16 per cent reported "risky" or "high-risk" drinking.
Based on data from the 2004-05 National Health Survey, the figures show 25 per cent of people aged 18-24 experienced an alcohol-related injury. The injury figure for people over 18 was 18 per cent.
The economic and health costs are also significant. The cost of crime, violence, treatment, loss of productivity and premature death associated with alcohol misuse in 1998-99 was $7.6 billion.
Alcohol is a major cause of liver disease and mental disorders. It is also the second-largest cause of drug-related deaths in Australia, and the main cause of deaths on Australian roads. In 1998, more than 2000 of 7000 road deaths were alcohol-related.
It is estimated that more than 31,000 Australians died from alcohol-caused disease and injury between 1992 and 2001. Of these, 75 per cent were men and 25 per cent were women. From 1993-94 to 2001-01, more than 500,000 people were sent to hospital because of "risky" or "high-risk" drinking.
The survey defines "risky" as five to six standard drinks in one day for men, and three to four standard drinks for women. "High risk" is defined as seven or more standard drinks in one day for men, and five or more for women. The risk is calculated based on the long-term effects the average daily intake of alcohol would have.
A NATION OF DRINKERS■Rate of adults drinking has increased by almost 3 per cent since 2001.
■Two million Australians consume alcohol at rates considered "risky" or "high risk".
■More males (15 per cent) than females (12 per cent) drink at harmful levels, but more women have contributed to the overall increase.
■Young people engage in more risky behaviour when they drink; 25 per cent of people aged 18-24 experienced an alcohol-related injury, compared with 18 per cent of adults.SOURCE: AUSTRALIAN BUREAU OF STATISTICS' ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION IN AUSTRALIA 2004-05