Australian Bureau of Statistics
4125.0 - Gender Indicators, Australia, Jan 2013
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 30/01/2013
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CONSUMPTION OF ALCOHOL
In 2011-12 almost three times as many men than women aged 18 years and over consumed alcohol in quantities that posed a health risk over their lifetime (29% compared to 10% respectively, standardised for the age structure of the population).
Excessive alcohol consumption is one of the more prominent health risks in modern Australian society. It is associated with risks to health both in the short and long term, including mood and anxiety problems and chronic conditions caused by injury. It may also affect a person’s ability to work, or participate in other aspects of family and community life. (Endnote 1)
Excessive alcohol consumption affects society as a result of property damage, road accidents and the need for law enforcement. In 2008 the estimated annual cost to Australia’s health care system from drinking was $15 billion. (Endnote 2) Between 1995-96 and 2005-06, around 813,000 Australians were hospitalised for injury or disease attributable to alcohol. In the 10 years to 2005, around 32,700 Australians aged 15 years and over died from causes attributable to risky or high risk drinking. (Endnote 3)
Data presented from the Australian Health Survey (formerly the National Health Survey) and National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey classify the average daily consumption of alcohol by persons aged 15 years and over for 3 days of the week prior to interview according to whether they exceed 'lifetime' risk. 'Lifetime' risk is a term used in the 2009 National Health and Medical Research Council's (NHMRC) Australian Guidelines: to Reduce Risks from Drinking Alcohol. 'Lifetime' risk replaces the term 'long term' risk as was used in their 2001 alcohol consumption guidelines.
Under the new 2009 guidelines, more than two standard drinks per day by either a male or female presents a risk over that individuals 'lifetime'.
For the first time, the 2009 guidelines align the definition of what constitutes 'risky' alcohol consumption for males and females. That is, using either 2001 or 2009 guidelines, the incidence of females engaging in 'risky' levels of alcohol consumption remains the same (10% in 2011-12), but the incidence of risky alcohol consumption for males increases considerably from 13% to 29% in 2011-12.
In 2011-12, according to 2009 NHMRC guidelines, the proportion of men who drink at risky levels was significantly higher than women in all age groups to 65 years and over. Across life-cycles there was little variation among males and females. One difference was the significant decline in risky alcohol consumption as women moved from the 55-64 year age group into the 65+ age group. Women in the 55-64 year age group also had higher rates of drinking at risky levels than their younger counterparts in the 18-24 year age group.
In addition to 'lifetime' risk to health is the risky behaviour of 'binge drinking'. This is an issue that is more common in younger age groups. In 2005-06, 15-19 year old males and females had the highest hospitalisation rates for acute intoxication from alcohol of any age group (124 and 126 per 100,000 respectively). Men and women aged 20-24 years of age had the next highest rates (89 and 74 per 100,000 respectively). (Endnote 4)
Between 2001 and 2004-05, there were small but significant increases in the incidence of males and females consuming alcohol that poses a lifetime risk. When standardising for the age structure of the population, rates for males increased 3.3 percentage points, and female rates increased 3.2 percentage points. Between 2004-05 and 2011-12, the incidence of risky alcohol consumption then declined for both males and females (down 3.3 and 1.6 percentage points respectively).
Between 2001 and 2011-12, there were significant increases in the rates of alcohol consumption that exceeded lifetime risk for 55-64 year old men and women. For men, this rate increased from 28% to 33%, while for women, it increased from 9% to 13%.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
Among the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population there is a strong link between alcohol consumption and representation in the criminal justice system, particularly for men. (Endnote 5) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males aged 15 years and over who reported drinking at chronic risky/ high risk levels were more likely than female drinkers of the same age to have been arrested in the last five years, or to have been charged by police or incarcerated at least once in their lives. (Endnote 6)
In the light of the NHMRC releasing new guidelines for reducing health risks associated with the consumption of alcohol, 2002 and 2008 data on alcohol consumption risk levels from the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Surveys are being reviewed. Results from the review, including rates for alcohol consumption that present a lifetime risk according to the 2009 Guidelines will be available later in the year.
1. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Social Trends, ‘Smoking, risky drinking and obesity’, 10/12/2009 (cat. no. 4102.0) ABS, <www.abs.gov.au>.
2. Preventative Health Taskforce, 2008, Technical Report No 3: Preventing alcohol-related harm in Australia: a window of opportunity, p. 2. As cited in Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Social Trends, ‘Smoking, risky drinking and obesity’, 10/12/2009 (cat. no. 4102.0) ABS, <www.abs.gov.au>.
3. National Drug Research Institute, 2009, National Alcohol Indicators: Bulletin 12: Trends in estimated alcohol-attributable deaths and hospitalisations in Australia, 1996-2005, Australian Government Department of Health and ageing, p. 1. As cited in Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Social Trends, ‘Smoking, risky drinking and obesity’, 10/12/2009 (cat. no. 4102.0) ABS, <www.abs.gov.au>.
4. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Social Trends, 2008, ‘Risk taking by young people’, 23/07/2008 (cat. no. 4102.0) ABS, <www.abs.gov.au>.
5. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Year Book, Australia, 2012, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples: Law and Justice, (cat. no. 1301.0 ABS, <www.abs.gov.au>.
6. Australian Bureau of Statistics, The Health and welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, Oct 2010 (cat. no. 4704.0) ABS, <www.abs.gov.au>.
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This page last updated 16 May 2013