People from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds

Australia has a large culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) population. As of June 2016, 26% of Australia’s population were born overseas and this has been increasing over the past 10 years (ABS 2017). In 2016, there were over 300 separately identified languages spoken in Australian homes and 21% of Australians spoke a language other than English (ABS 2017). For the purposes of this report, people from CALD backgrounds refers to people whose main language spoken at home is not English (for more information refer to Box CALD1).  

Some people from CALD backgrounds are more vulnerable to alcohol and other drug use due to a history of torture, trauma, grief and loss. This can also be exacerbated by family stressors, unemployment, language barriers, and lack of awareness of culturally appropriate services available (DoH 2017).

Box CALD1: Alcohol and other drug data in CALD populations

There is a lack of publicly available and comprehensive data examining the use of alcohol and other drugs by people from CALD backgrounds. The AIHW’s National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) is one of the only national data sources that specifically disaggregates alcohol and other drug use by main language spoken at home. CALD data from the NDSHS refers to persons who indicated that English was not the main language spoken at home.

The Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services National Minimum Data Set (AODTS NMDS) also collects CALD data, however this is based on information on clients country of birth, instead of main language spoken at home. Most (87%) of treatment episodes in 2018–19 were provided to clients who were born in Australia (AIHW 2020a).

Data from the NDSHS indicate that people from CALD backgrounds are less likely to consume alcohol and other drugs compared with those whose main language spoken at home is English (AIHW 2020b).

Tobacco smoking

While there has been an increase between 2016 and 2019 in the proportion of people across Australia reporting never smoking, the proportion of 'never smokers' is greater for people from CALD backgrounds (84%) compared with people who mainly speak English at home (60%) (Table S3.51). This has been the case since 2010. People from CALD backgrounds also continue to be less likely to smoke daily than people who mainly speak English (AIHW 2020b).

NDSHS estimates indicate that, after adjusting for age differences, there was a significant reduction in daily smoking among primary English speakers from 13.1% in 2016 to 11.8% in 2019. However, for people from CALD backgrounds, this figure rose from 5.9% in 2016 to 6.2% in 2019) (Table S3.52; Figure CALD1).

People from CALD backgrounds who do smoke tend to smoke fewer cigarettes than primary English speakers. In 2019, among current smokers, people who mainly spoke a language other than English smoked an average of 69 cigarettes per week, compared with 91 cigarettes for people who mainly spoke English (Table S3.51).

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Alcohol consumption

Similar to smoking, data from the NDSHS show that people from CALD backgrounds are more likely to abstain from alcohol than people who mostly speak English (AIHW 2020b). After adjusting for age differences, over half (53%) of people who mainly spoke a language other than English were abstainers or ex-drinkers, compared with 19.2% of primary English speakers (Table S3.52). Additionally, in 2019:

  • people who mainly spoke a language other than English (3.9%) were much less likely to exceed NHMRC lifetime risk guidelines for alcohol, compared with people who mainly spoke English at home (18.6%)
  • the proportion of people who consumed 11 or more drinks in a single occasion at least monthly has significantly declined among people from CALD backgrounds, from 4.0% in 2016 to 2.1% in 2019 (AIHW 2020b) (Table S3.51)
  • less than 1 in 10 (7.5%) people from CALD backgrounds exceeded the single occasion risk guidelines for alcohol at least once a month, compared with 29% for people who mainly spoke English at home (Table S3.52; Figure CALD2).
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Illicit drugs

In 2019, recent illicit drug use continued to be less common among people from CALD backgrounds than those from English speaking backgrounds (AIHW 2020b). In 2019, after adjusting for age differences:

  • people from CALD background were less likely to have recently used illicit drugs (6.4%) than those who mainly speak English at home (18.7%)
  • cannabis (3.6%) was the most commonly used illicit drug among people who mainly spoke a language other than English at home, followed by non-medical use of pharmaceuticals (2.4%). These proportions were much lower than for people who mainly spoke English at home (13.7% for cannabis and 4.5% for pharmaceuticals)
  • use of other drugs was uncommon among people from CALD backgrounds (AIHW 2020b) (Table S3.52; Figure CALD3).
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Health and harms

Treatment

The Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services National Minimum Data Set (AODTS NMDS) reported that in 2018–19, the majority of closed treatment episodes were for clients born in Australia (87%) (AIHW 2020a) (Table S3.53).

Clients receiving treatment that were born in countries other than Australia represented only a small proportion of all clients in 2018–19, with New Zealand (2.6%) and the United Kingdom (2.5%) being the next most common countries of birth. Comparatively, in 2014–15, 5% of the Australian population were born in the United Kingdom and 2.5% in New Zealand (ABS 2017). English was the most frequently reported preferred language among clients receiving specialist alcohol and drug treatment (96% of treatment episodes) (AIHW 2020a) (Table S3.54).

References

ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2017. Census of Population and Housing: Reflecting Australia—Stories from the Census, 2016. ABS cat. no. 2071.0. Canberra: ABS. Viewed 9 May 2018.

AIHW 2020a. Alcohol and other drug treatment services in Australia 2018–19. Cat. no. HSE 243. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 26 June 2020.

AIHW 2020b. National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019. Drug statistics series no. 32. Cat. no. PHE 270. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 30 July 2020.

DoH (Department of Health) 2017. National Drug Strategy 2017–2026. Canberra: DoH. Viewed 12 January 2018.