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4125.0 - Gender Indicators, Australia, Jul 2012  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/07/2012   
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CONSUMPTION OF ALCOHOL


KEY SERIES


CONSUMPTION OF ALCOHOL IN QUANTITIES AT A RISK OR HIGH RISK TO LONG TERM HEALTH, Age standardised (a), 18 years and over

2001
2004-05
2007-08

%
%
%

Males
13.1
15.2
15.0
Females
8.5
11.7
11.7

(a) Age standardised in 5 year ranges to 75 years and over to the Estimated Resident Population (ERP) as at 30 June 2001.

Source: ABS data available on request, National Health Survey.





COMMENTARY
CONSUMPTION OF ALCOHOL

In 2007-08, a higher proportion of men aged 18 years and over consumed alcohol in quantities at a risk or high risk to their long-term health, compared to women (15% compared to 12%, 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)

For males, 'risky' levels of alcohol consumption constitute more than four standard drinks per day. For females, risky levels constitute more than two drinks per day. 'Risky' levels of alcohol consumption are defined in the National Health Surveys and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Surveys as those people who consume quantities of alcohol 'at risk' or 'high risk' to their health in the long-term. Alcohol consumption risk levels in the long-term were derived from the average daily consumption of alcohol by persons aged 15 years and over for 3 days of the week prior to interview, and are grouped into relative risk levels as defined by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in 2001. Since 2009, new guidelines have been introduced. (Endnote 4)

By age

The proportion who drink alcohol at risky levels varied across the life-cycle, however the proportion of women who drink at risky levels is lower than men in all age groups to 65 years and over. The low rate of risky drinking in the 25-34 year age group for women aligns with prime childbearing years for females, and suggests a conscious curtailing of risk-taking behaviour during this life stage. (Endnote 1)




In addition to the risky levels of alcohol consumption is the more risky behaviour of 'binge drinking'. This was more common in younger age groups. In 2005-06, 15-19 year old males and females had the highest hospital separation 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 5)

Over time

Between 2001 and 2007-08, there was a small, but significant increase in the incidence of males and females consuming alcohol at risky levels when standardising for the age structure of the population. These increases largely took place between 2001 and 2004-05 (up 2.1 percentage points for males, and up 3.2 percentage points for females). Rates observed in 2004-05 and 2007-08 were similar for both males and females.

For females, particularly significant increases occurred between 2001 and 2007-08 for the age groups of 18-24 years and 55-64 years (up 5.1 percentage points and 4.2 percentage points respectively). In contrast, incidences were relatively similar in 2001 and 2007-08 for females in their prime childbearing years (25-34 year olds), as well as those aged 35-44 years old.

Males in the 25-34 year age group were the only male cohort where the incidence of risky alcohol consumption increased significantly (from 14% to 17%) over this time period.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

In 2008, the incidence of risky alcohol consumption by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples was higher than the total population for both males (21%) and females (14%). The difference between Indigenous men and women changed little between 2002 and 2008 with men having a high rate of risky alcohol consumption than women across the life cycle.

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 6) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men who were chronic risky/ high risk drinkers were two and a half times more likely than women drinkers to be arrested, twice as likely to be charged by police and nearly five times as likely to have been incarcerated. (Endnote 7)

In 2002, alcohol consumption was similar between Indigenous men and women for all age groups except for the 45-54 and 55 years and over age groups, where it was significantly higher for males. By 2008, the incidence of risky alcohol consumption by 35-44 year old Indigenous males was also significantly higher than Indigenous females in this age group.

Between 2002 and 2008, 18-24 year old Indigenous males were the only age group where the incidence of risky alcohol consumption significantly increased (from 16% to 27%).





Endnotes

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. New guidelines released in 2009 recommend that both men and women drink no more than two standard drinks on each drinking occasion. Australian Guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol, 2009, NHMRC.
5. 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>.
6. SCRGSP (Steering Committee for the review of Government Service Provision) 2009, 'Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: Key Indicators 2009', Productivity Commission, Canberra <www.pc.gov.au>. As cited in 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>.
7. 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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