What's your relationship with alcohol like?

The effects of alcohol on Australians and the community

Based on the latest health and data information, the effects of alcohol are cause for alarm. Burden of Disease (BoD) estimates found thousands of Australians are dying every year from alcohol related illness and injury, and harming many, many more people in a variety of ways.

But it’s not just those who are drinking that pay a heavy price for the misuse. Others are directly involved due to physical assaults, psychological abuse and financial implications just to name a few, while indirectly the Australian taxpayer forks out an extraordinary amount of money each year.

The main effects of alcohol in 2010 alone

  • 5,554 deaths directly attributable to alcohol – 3,467 men and 2,087 women. That equates to 15 Australians dying because of alcohol every day.
  • 157,132 hospitalisations directly attributed to alcohol – 101,425 men and 55,707 women. That equates to 430 Australians seeking hospital treatment because of alcohol every day.
  • For men, the breakdown of the most common alcohol related deaths were injuries (36%), cancers (25%) and digestive diseases (16%).
  • For women, the breakdown of the most common alcohol related deaths were cardiovascular diseases (34%), cancers (31%) and injuries (12%).
  • The Northern Territory had the highest proportion of alcohol related deaths for both men and women at approximately three times the national average.
  • Victoria had the lowest proportion of alcohol related deaths for both men and women.

Disability Adjusted Life Years

The Disability Adjusted Life Year (DALY) is a unit of measure to show the amount of time lost in years because of illness, disability or early death. In 2010, alcohol was estimated to be responsible for 136,982 DALY’s for men, with 36% of that figure due to injuries sustained due to the effects of alcohol. Women accounted for 51,556 DALY’s thanks to the effects of alcohol, with cancers the number one contributor.

Years of Lost Life

Years of Lost Life (YLL) is a unit of measure that estimates the average amount of years a person would have lived had they not died prematurely. In 2010 the effects of alcohol are estimated to have caused 84,945 YLL for Australian men, and 35,223 YLL for women. For men, injuries once again topped the list of causes with 45%, while cancer (39%) was once again number one for women.

Years of Life lived with a Disability

Years of Life lived with a Disability (YLD) is a unit of measure that estimates how many years a persons lives with a disability as a result of illness or injury. In Australia in 2010, alcohol caused 52,036 YLD for men and 16,334 YLD for women, with neuropsychiatric diseases responsible for more than 60% in both men and women.

How much time do you spend in bars drinking too much?
How much time do you spend in bars drinking too much?

The effects of alcohol on the Australian community

The annual estimated cost to the Australian community for alcohol-related harm is upwards of $36 billion. This includes health care, law enforcement, decrease in workplace productivity, and pain and suffering caused due to violence, injury, crime and car accidents.

  • Liver damage, heart damage and a range of cancers are just some of the 60 different medical conditions causally linked by the effects of alcohol.
  • Alcohol is responsible for more than 33% of all road fatalities, more than speed, fatigue, weather and road conditions.
  • Young people aged between 15-24 years are hospitalised 11,000 times annually because of the effects of alcohol, while each week one young person aged between 14-17 years dies and 65 more are hospitalised because of alcohol.
  • Alcohol related crime alone costs the Australian taxpayer $1.7 billion.
  • 25% of Australians aged 14 years and over have suffered verbal abuse from someone under the influence of alcohol, while 5% have been physically assaulted.
  • In 2013 almost 5 million Australians 14 years-of-age or older (26% of the population) reported being the victim of an alcohol related incident.
  • More than 33% of child abuse cases are alcohol related.

I don’t know about you but these figures are frightening. Studies show that 75% of Australians believe we have, as a nation, problems with alcohol abuse and excessive drinking. Yet we keep doing it, and it’s costing us obscene amounts of money, let alone the impact it has on every individual person involved.

  • 20% of Australians consume alcohol at levels that puts them in the high risk category of causing themselves lifetime harm from injury or disease.
  • 40% of Australians consume alcohol at levels that puts them in the high risk category of causing themselves short-term harm at least once a year.
  • 33% of 14-19 year old Australians consume alcohol at levels that put them in the high risk category of sustaining an alcohol-related injury at least once a month.
  • 52% of Australians who consume alcohol do so at levels above the recommended intake.

Given most of us accept that Australia has a drinking problem, it might be time to look at ourselves in the mirror and ask a few tough questions:

  • Do you have your own drinking habits under control?
  • Is your drinking directly or indirectly effecting someone else in a negative way?
  • Would your life be better off without alcohol?

If you honestly believe you have a positive relationship with alcohol, then carry on enjoying a drink. However, once you’ve asked yourself these questions and answered them honestly, perhaps you might realise you need to change your relationship with alcohol in some way.

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