August 25, 2006
High risk drinking is on the rise and women are picking up the habit at the fastest rate, new figures show.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) says about one in eight adults - about two million Australians - drink at a risky or high risk level in a typical week.
And the proportion putting their health at risk has increased over the past decade from 8.2 per cent in 1995 to 10.8 per cent in 2001 and 13.4 per cent in the most recent 2004-2005 survey.
Men are still more likely to be hitting the bottle hard, but the ABS found the number of women overindulging doubled in the past decade.
Taxpayers are picking up the tab for the boozy behaviour, with the number of hospital admissions for alcohol-related mental and behavioural disorders increasing from 23,000 a year in 1999 to 35,000 today.
About 1.5 per cent of men and 2.4 per cent of women injure themselves each year while under the influence of alcohol.
A Queensland study earlier this year confirmed people who drink alcohol are up to four times more likely than non-drinkers to be hurt from physical injuries.
More than 30,000 Australians died from alcohol-caused disease and injury between 1992 and 2001.
Middle aged men were most likely to habitually drink too much - with almost one in five men aged 45 to 54 considered long term risky drinkers - while young men aged 18 to 24 were the most common binge drinkers.
According to National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines, men who drink 11 or more drinks in one sitting are considered to be binge drinking, while seven drinks puts women in the danger zone.
Long term risky drinking means five or more drinks a day for men and three or more for women, while high risk drinking means more than seven or five respectively.
Almost half of Australian men, and three in ten women, reported binge drinking at least once a year and 12 per cent of men reported doing so at least once a week.
One quarter of teenagers aged 14 to 19 reported drinking alcohol daily or weekly.
The figures found alcohol abuse was worse in regional Australia compared to major cities, and was worse among Australian-born citizens than migrants.
Australians born in North Africa and the Middle East had the lowest proportion of alcohol abusers, at just 2.2 per cent, compared to 15 per cent of those born locally.
High risk drinkers were more likely to smoke, eat less than the recommended daily fruit intake and report high or very high levels of psychological distress.
Distress was most common among women aged 18 to 24 years than other groups.