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Drinking Problems in Australia

1 in 5 Australians Will Experience an Alcohol Abuse Problem

posted 07:13 AM EST, Wed August 11, 2010
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22% of Australians will develop a drinking problem at least once in a lifetime and young adults today are drinking a lot more than their earlier cohorts did.

Researchers at the Australian National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) took a look at domestic drinking patterns to get a feel for the scope of alcohol related problems within the country. They found that in the land down-under; people drink way too much – and that things seem to be getting worse.

The numbers:

  • 18% of Australians will suffer an alcohol abuse problem during their lifetimes
  • 4% will experience alcohol dependence during a lifetime
  • Amongst men only, a whopping 1 in 3 will experience an alcohol abuse problem at least once in a lifetime
  • Men born from 1977 to 1987 were 1.7 times more likely to drink at ‘risky’ levels than men born from 1967 to 1976
  • People who are married and those that do not speak English as a first language were less likely to drink at problematic levels

Problematic drinking was defined as having periods of life during which habits of alcohol consumption resulted in negative life-consequences, like being unable to perform work duties, getting into alcohol-fueled fights with a spouse, getting into legal troubles as a result of drinking, and others.

Although many Australians drink at levels that warrant professional substance abuse treatment, only about 1 in 5 who need help will ever get it.

Study leader, Professor Maree Teesson, explained why so few of the 3.5 million Australians affected by alcohol abuse would instigate treatment, saying,  "One reason for the lack of treatment is that alcohol problems still have a terrible stigma about them. People are much less likely to want to own up to having a problem with alcohol than they are about other physical or mental illness yet their abuse of alcohol has serious consequences.”

Professor Teesson says that not only is the problem serious now, but that it seems to be on getting worse. She points out that younger Australians are far more likely to binge drink and says, "Something is happening ... it's become more acceptable to drink at risky levels. It will take a major national response to turn this around."

The full research results can be read in the journal Addiction.

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