Australians over 40 more likely to receive treatment for alcohol—but young adults at most risk

Young adults are more likely than any other age group to drink at risky levels, but are the least likely to receive treatment for alcohol use, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Trends in alcohol availability, use and treatment 2003–04 to 2014–15 shows that 18 to 24 year olds are the group most likely to report having consumed alcohol at risky levels. These young adults were the largest group to report risky drinking levels on several measures—including  risky single occasion drinking on a regular basis (making up 47% of the total), yearly (33%) and monthly (18%).

Despite this, it is older age groups who are more likely to receive treatment, with almost half (49%) of clients receiving treatment for alcohol aged in their forties.

'Overall, the use of alcohol treatment has increased, at 30 treatment episodes per 10,000 people in 2013–14—an increase of 20% from a decade ago,' said AIHW spokesperson Tim Beard.

While treatment for alcohol use has been consistently rising, alcohol consumption has fallen.

'In 2013–14, consumption of alcohol was 9.7 litres per person, down from 10.8 litres in 2008–09. On the same note, the proportion of Australians who abstain from drinking alcohol has also risen in recent years, from 17% in 2004 to 22% in 2013,' Mr Beard said.

There have also been some positive trends in risky alcohol consumption—between 2004 and 2013 there was an 11% fall in the rate of Australians drinking at risky levels on a single occasion (from 2,950 to 2,640 per 10,000 population), and a 13% fall in those drinking at risky levels over their lifetime (from 2,080 to 1,820 per 10,000 population).

These results suggest strategies such as increasing the price of alcohol, restricting trading hours and reducing outlet density can have positive outcomes in reducing the overall consumption levels of alcohol.

Mr Beard said that while there are positive drinking patterns emerging overall, patterns of risky drinking and alcohol dependence continue to be significant issues in Australia, with less favourable patterns seen among some groups of Australians.

'For example, in Remote and very remote areas, rates increased across several measures of risk in the decade from 2004 to 2013, including single occasion risk, lifetime risk and monthly drinking at very high levels,' Mr Beard said.

Rates of alcohol treatment also increased in Remote and very remote areas, from 13 episodes per 1,000 in 2007–08 to 16 in 2013–14.

As a risk factor, alcohol was the leading cause of burden of disease for Australians under the age of 45 in 2011 while alcohol use disorders, were responsible for 1.5% of the total burden of disease in 2011.


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