A quarter of Australians abuse alcohol | The Australian


AUSTRALIA has one of the world’s highest rates of alcohol abuse.

Nearly one-quarter of the general population — and one-third of men — are likely to develop some form of drinking problem during their lives.

The figures are part of new research that shows 18 per cent of Australians will abuse alcohol, and a further 4 per cent will become alcohol-dependent at some point.

Yet continuing stigma and limited services mean only a fraction of those receive help, with four out of five cases going untreated.

The study — the first lifetime estimate of alcohol problems in Australia — found young men were 2 1/2 times more likely to have alcohol abuse problems as the rest of the population.

More than 11 per cent of men aged 16 to 24 reported symptoms of alcohol abuse disorder over the previous year, the study found.

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The report, by experts from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of NSW, found the rate of alcohol problems in Australia is one of the highest in the world, being similar to that in the US and New Zealand.

Study lead author Maree Teesson said alcohol problems still had a “terrible stigma”.

“People are much less likely to want to own up to having a problem with alcohol than they are about other physical or mental illnesses, yet their abuse of alcohol has serious consequences for them personally,” she said.

The study found that while more women aged 30 to 40 were drinking alcohol than in previous generations, their drinking at harmful levels had not increased.

Men aged 20 to 29 are 1.7 times more likely to drink at risky levels than men born 10 years earlier when they were the same age.

Paul Haber, the director of the drug and alcohol service at Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and a co-author of the paper published in the journal Addiction, said the high rate of alcohol problems uncovered was a surprise, while the low levels of treatment were a disappointment.

The country’s “alcohol-consuming culture” was widely acknowledged as encouraging drinking problems, Professor Haber said.

“Alcohol is cheap and readily available,” he said.

Professor Haber said it was paradoxical that while many have no embarrassment about drinking large amounts of alcohol, admitting to an alcohol problem was still perceived by some as

A quarter of us abuse alcohol | The Australian.

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