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Study finds emerging groups with concerning problematic drinking

Current public policy relating to alcohol use in Australia generally focuses on preventing problematic alcohol use and restricting access to alcohol rather than considering the pattern of problematic alcohol consumption.

Drinking excessively increases an individual’s risk of alcohol poisoning, and mental health related issues such as alcohol induced psychosis and suicide. Little is known about the drinking habits of semi-urban and rural populations. This is of concern because semi-urban and rural populations are at the greatest risk of disease and other poor health outcomes within Australia.

A recent study found that within a 6-to-12-year period beginning in 2004, the likelihood of individuals undertaking heavy episodic drinking in urban areas decreased but the likelihood significantly increased in both semi-urban and rural areas.

The study also found that males were more at risk than females for episodic drinking however, concerningly, they also established that middle-aged females are a group who are not reducing their drinking over time.

People who are mentally well in urban areas were less at risk for problematic drinking, however those who were mentally well and mildly mentally ill living in semi-urban and rural settings, were still at increased risk of problematic drinking.

Some of the factors that could contribute to the discrepancy between urban and rural communities are severe economic hardship, poor job opportunities, isolation and poor access to mental health services in rural parts of Australia.

Through this study, the authors suggest public health policy and mental health support needs to also consider the emerging groups of concern for problematic drinking: women, middle-aged individuals, and people living in rural areas.

Bozic, S., Vicendese, D., Livingston, M. and Erbas, B., 2022. Mapping Problematic Drinking Trends over Time in Urban, Semi-Urban, and Rural Populations. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, [online] 19(1), pp.1-13. [Accessed 27 January 2022].

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