2019 Annual Alcohol Poll | Risky drinking a bigger problem in regional Australia

Image by Shutterstock.
Image by Shutterstock.

A higher percentage of Australians living in regional, rural and remote communities were engaging in risky drinking compared to their city counterparts and, in turn, were more concerned about the resulting harm.

Polling by YouGov Galaxy found drinkers living outside major capital cities were more likely than those living in major capital cities to consume six or more standards drinks on a typical occasion (20 per cent to 14 per cent).

Across the nation, since 2011 there has been an overall increase in the proportion of drinkers who drink to get drunk from 35 to 47 per cent - close to six million Australians.

The Annual Alcohol Poll 2019: Attitudes and behaviours report was commissioned by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education.

The report revealed people living outside major capital cities were more concerned about alcohol-related problems associated with excess drinking: alcohol-related road traffic accidents, violence, crime, child abuse and neglect and harm to unborn babies.

FARE chief executive officer Michael Thorn said it had been the 'decade of deception' when it came to informing Australians about the risks of alcohol, particularly in regional, rural and remote areas.

"It is well established that rural areas have disproportionately high levels of alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harm compared to metropolitan areas," he said.

"A recent study confirmed that Australia's heaviest drinkers are likely to be middle-aged men living outside major cities."

Mr Thorn said it was not surprising that Australians are confused about the risks of alcohol when nebulous terms such as 'drink responsibly' and 'drink in moderation' were commonplace in alcohol marketing.

"These risky drinking patterns are concerning when almost all Australian drinkers consider themselves to be a so-called 'responsible drinker'," he said.

"This is even more acute in our regions, with the poll finding that drinkers living outside major capital cities were more likely to consider themselves a responsible drinker (94 per cent compared to 84 per cent)."

Mr Thorn said there was strong research that showed alcohol harm increased with remoteness, with alcohol being the key factor in 30 per cent of fatal road crashes.

"The confusion around alcohol risk is reaching a crisis point as the country heads into the federal election," he said.

"The timing of the ten-year poll is an opportunity to show what goes wrong when we do not have strong preventive health policies and programs in place.

"It is time for governments to step up and give regional, rural and remote Australians the evidence based health information they are seeking."

Key findings outside major capital cities found:

Australian drinkers living outside of major capital cities (20 per cent) were more likely than those living in major capital cities (14%) to consume six or more standards drinks in a typical occasion.

People living outside of major capital cities were more likely than those living in major capital cities to believe that political parties should not be able to receive donations from the alcohol industry.

Australian drinkers living outside of major capital cities (94 per cent) were more likely than those living in major capital cities (84 per cent) to consider themselves a responsible drinker.

People living outside of major capital cities were more likely than those living in major capital cities to believe Australians have the right to know about a range of alcohol-related health harms.

People living outside of major capital cities were more likely than those living in major capital cities to support a range of strategies to reduce alcohol-related violence including: introducing a 1am lockout for pubs, clubs and bars, stopping the sale of shots after 10pm, stopping the sale of alcohol and energy drinks after midnight.

Across the nation, the report found:

66 per cent of people believed that Australia has a problem with excess drinking or alcohol abuse.

75 per cent of Australians believed that more needed to be done to reduce the harm caused by alcohol.

Fewer than half of Australians were aware of the link between alcohol use and stroke, mouth and throat cancer, and breast cancer.

53 per cent of people believed that alcohol-related problems in Australia would worsen or remain the same over the next five to ten years.

47 per cent of Australian drinkers consumed alcohol to get drunk.

87 per cent of Australian drinkers considered themselves a responsible drinker.

78 per cent of Australian drinkers who consumed alcohol to get drunk, considered themselves a responsible drinker.

64 per cent of Australians drinkers who consumed alcohol to get drunk at least twice a week considered themselves a responsible drinker.

79 per cent of Australian drinkers who consumed six to ten standard drinks on a typical occasion considered themselves a responsible drinker.

68 per cent of Australian drinkers who consumed 11 or more standard drinks on a typical occasion, considered themselves a responsible drinker.

38 per cent of Australians have been affected by alcohol-related violence, including 18 per cent who have been victims of alcohol-related violence.

23 per cent of parents or guardians with a child under 18 reported that their child had been harmed or put at risk of harm because of someone else's drinking.

More than 80 per cent of Australians believed people had a right to know about a wide range of alcohol related harms