Australia’s Drinking Problem

A poll of more than 2,600 adults across the country found 73 per cent had been "negatively affected" by someone else's drunkenness in the past 12 months.

This included 14 per cent who said it had "a lot" of impact on a relationship, and five per cent who knew of cases where alcohol was responsible for the potential abuse or neglect of children.

Professor Robin Room, from the University of Melbourne's School of Population Health, says the research sought to gauge the impact of excess alcohol consumption not on the drinker but on those nearby.

"This is an under studied area," says Prof Room.

"Most studies of alcohol problems are of harm to the drinker (but) harm to others from drinking may take many forms.

"... drink driving, violence, foetal alcohol syndrome, mental health problems, problems in the family, the workplace, the street."

Almost half of the respondents (43 per cent) could report being on the receiving end of alcohol-related abuse, threats or damage from a stranger.

Younger respondents were much more likely that older respondents to report being adversely affected, and men outnumbered women more than two to one when it came to being a problematic drinker.

Women, and people aged under 60, were most likely to be negatively affected by a household member, relative or friend who drinks too much.

The study also sought to measure how many drinks the person causing the problem was consuming - and Prof Room says the result came in well over the nation's recently announced safe drinking guidelines.

The National Health and Medical Research Council's (NHMRC) new guideline for low-risk drinking is no more than two drinks per day.

Yet the poll showed, on average, problematic drinkers were estimated to be consuming at least five standard drinks about four times a week.

When respondents said they knew someone who was drinking "fairly heavily or a lot", this was estimated at about 13 standard drinks per sitting.

"A large proportion of Australians are adversely affected by someone else's drinking each year, with almost three quarters of adults surveyed reporting some kind of negative effect," Prof Room says.

"However, young adults, and particularly young women, bear most of the brunt of other people's drinking."
(AP Photo/Thomas Unterberger)

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