4727.0.55.001 - Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey: First Results, Australia, 2012-13  
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Contents >> Health risk factors >> Alcohol consumption — lifetime and single occasion risk

ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION — LIFETIME AND SINGLE OCCASION RISK

Alcohol occupies a significant place in Australian culture and is consumed in a wide range of social circumstances. Generally, alcohol is consumed at low levels, posing no immediate health risk. However, some people drink at levels that increase their risk of alcohol-related injury, as well as their risk of developing health problems over the course of their life. The 2003 Australian Burden of Disease Study estimated that alcohol harm accounts for 6% of the total burden of disease and injury for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (Endnote 1).


RESULTS FROM 2012–13

In 2012–13, just under three-quarters (72%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over reported they had consumed alcohol in the past year. One in eight (13%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over had last consumed alcohol more than 12 months before the survey, 14% had never consumed alcohol, and 1% did not know when they had last consumed alcohol.

Just over three-quarters (77%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males had consumed alcohol in the past year, while for females the proportion was significantly lower at 68%.

Lifetime risk

The 2009 National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines for reducing health risks associated with the consumption of alcohol (Endnote 2) state that, for healthy men and women, 'drinking no more than two standard drinks on any day reduces the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury'. (Glossary)

In 2012–13, around one in six (18%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over had consumed more than two standard drinks per day on average, exceeding the lifetime risk guidelines.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males were significantly more likely than females to have exceeded the 2009 NHMRC guidelines for lifetime risk (26% compared with 10%). This pattern was evident in all age groups, although the difference between rates for males and females aged 15–17 years was not statistically significant.

EXCEEDED GUIDELINES, LIFETIME RISK(a), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people—2012–13
Graph: Exceeded Guidelines, Lifetime Risk

Similar proportions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over in non-remote and remote areas had exceeded the lifetime risk guidelines (18% and 17% respectively).Single occasion risk

The 2009 NHMRC guidelines advise that on a single occasion of drinking, the risk of alcohol-related injury increases with the amount consumed. For healthy men and women, 'drinking no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion reduces the risk of alcohol-related injury arising from that occasion'. (Glossary) A single occasion of drinking refers to a person consuming a sequence of drinks without their blood alcohol concentration reaching zero in-between.

In 2012–13, just over half (54%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over had consumed more than four standard drinks on a single occasion in the past year, exceeding the guidelines for single occasion risk.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males were significantly more likely than females to have exceeded the 2009 NHMRC guidelines for single occasion risk (64% compared with 44%). This pattern was evident in all age groups, with male rates for single occasion risk more than 20 percentage points higher than the comparable female rates for most age groups. The difference between rates for males and females aged 15–17 years was not statistically significant.
EXCEEDED GUIDELINES, SINGLE OCCASION RISK(a), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people—2012–13
Graph: Exceeded Guidelines, Single Occasion Risk

CHANGE OVER TIME

Lifetime risk

Between 2001 and 2012–13, the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 18 years and over who exceeded the lifetime risk guidelines did not change significantly (19% and 20% respectively).

Single occasion risk

It is not possible to assess change over time using the 2009 NHMRC single occasion risk guidelines, as questions on the frequency of consumption of more than four standard drinks were not asked in earlier ABS Health Surveys.
HOW DO THESE RATES COMPARE WITH THE RATES FOR NON-INDIGENOUS PEOPLE?

Lifetime risk

After adjusting for differences in age structure between the two populations, the proportions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over and non-Indigenous people aged 15 and over who were exceeding the lifetime risk guidelines were similar (rate ratio of 1.0). This was true for both males and females (both rate ratios of 1.0).

Similar proportions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous people of the same age and sex were exceeding the lifetime risk guidelines, apart from women aged 55 years and over. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in this age group were significantly less likely than non-Indigenous women to be exceeding the lifetime risk guidelines for alcohol consumption (7% compared with 10%).

Single occasion risk

After adjusting for differences in age structure between the two populations, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over were more likely than non-Indigenous people to have exceeded the alcohol consumption threshold for single occasion risk (rate ratio of 1.1). The difference between age standardised rates was statistically significant for females (rate ratio of 1.2), but not males (rate ratio of 1.1).

Similar proportions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous males in all age groups under 55 years had exceeded the threshold for single occasion risk. However, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men aged 55 years and over were significantly more likely than non-Indigenous men in this age group to have exceeded the single occasion risk threshold (46% compared with 37%).

Graph Image for Males exceeding guidelines, single occasion risk(a), by Indigenous status and age

Footnote(s): (a) NHMRC 2009 Guidelines for reducing health risks associated with alcohol consumption. (b) Difference between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous rate is not statistically significant.

Source(s): 2012-13 Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey and 2011–12 Australian Health Survey



Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women aged 35 years and over were significantly more likely than non-Indigenous women in this age range to have exceeded the threshold for single occasion risk. Differences between the rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous females for younger age groups were not statistically significant.

Graph Image for Females exceeding guidelines, single occasion risk(a), by Indigenous status and age

Footnote(s): (a) NHMRC 2009 Guidelines for reducing health risks associated with alcohol consumption. (b) Difference between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous rate is not statistically significant.

Source(s): 2012–13 Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey and 2011–12 Australian Health Survey



ENDNOTES
1. Vos T, Barker B, Stanley L, Lopez AD 2007. The Burden of Disease and Injury in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples 2003, School of Population Health, The University of Queensland, Brisbane.
2. National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), 2009. Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol, Canberra: NHMRC.
Available from http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/_files_nhmrc/publications/attachments/ds10-alcohol.pdf

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