Because somewhere in the world, it’s 5pm!
The summer season is often associated with social gatherings, parties, and festivities, and for many people, alcohol is a key part of these events. However, excessive alcohol consumption can take a toll on your physical and mental health, sometimes leaving you feeling low. If you’ve been feeling down or experiencing other negative effects after one-too-many celebrations over the silly season, it’s important to recognise that your alcohol consumption may be a contributing factor.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), alcohol use is a significant public health concern in Australia, with a substantial burden of disease and injury attributable to alcohol consumption, including an increased risk of various cancers, liver disease, and mental health problems. Yet, 1 in 4 adult Australians exceeds the national guideline for consumption (AIHW, 2022), a figure that may not seem surprising to many given our enthusiasm for drinks around the barbie.
While men have historically been found to consume more alcohol than women, recent studies suggest that the gender gap in alcohol consumption is narrowing in Australia, with women increasingly engaging in heavy drinking patterns. Moreover, social and cultural factors such as the normalisation of alcohol consumption in social settings and targeted marketing towards women have contributed to the increasing trend of women’s heavy drinking (“Margi’s in the Thermi anyone?”). According to the 2019 National Drug Strategy Household Survey conducted by the AIHW, approximately 2 in 5 (39.1%) women aged 18 years and over consumed alcohol at levels that put them at risk of harm from long-term chronic disease in the 12 months prior to the survey. Additionally, 1 in 4 (25.4%) women aged 18 years and over consumed alcohol at levels that put them at risk of injury from a single drinking occasion in the 12 months prior to the survey.
Interestingly, however, it was a study conducted by researchers at the University of New South Wales who found that middle-aged Australian women were the group most likely to increase their alcohol consumption over time. The study found that women in their thirties and forties were more likely to increase their alcohol intake than younger or older women (Chung et al., 2017). Perhaps this is due to 45% of us giving approval of its regular consumption (only 21% disapproved of alcohol consumption on a regular basis)(AIHW, 2022).
Statistics of alcohol addiction in Australia
The prevalence of alcohol addiction is also high, with an estimated 3 million Australians experiencing harm from someone else’s drinking. In comparison, 1.6 million Australians reported that they experienced harm from their own drinking (AIHW, 2021). In 2021, there were 1,559 alcohol-induced deaths recorded, a rate of 5.4 deaths for every 100,000 people living in Australia, up from 5.1 in the previous two years (FARE, 2023). Death statistics are not often talked about when it comes to alcohol, as other stimulants, perceived to be more sinister, take the focus. Yet in 2020-21, alcohol was the leading cause out of the four most common drugs driving Australians to seek professional treatment:
- Alcohol (37%)
- Amphetamines (24%)
- Cannabis (19%)
- Heroin (4.6%)
In 2021, 101,828 Australians sought professional support with alcohol-related addiction and concerns. By taking a step back and evaluating your drinking habits, you can start to make positive changes and take control of your health and well-being.
Causes of alcohol addiction
There are various causes of alcohol addiction, including biological, environmental, and social factors. Some of the factors that contribute to alcohol addiction include:
- Genetics: Studies have shown a genetic predisposition to alcohol addiction, with some people being more vulnerable to developing an addiction than others (Verhulst et al., 2015).
- Trauma: Trauma, such as physical or emotional abuse, can lead to individuals turning to alcohol as a way to cope with their pain.
- Environment: The environment in which individuals live can also contribute to alcohol addiction. For instance, people living in areas with high levels of alcohol availability and low socio-economic status are more likely to develop an addiction (Room et al., 2010).
- Mental health: Mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety, can also increase the likelihood of developing an addiction to alcohol (Grant et al., 2015).
When to seek help?
Having a few drinks in moderation is generally well tolerated by most. However, if your relationship with alcohol has become unhealthy, where you find you spend a significant deal of time resenting it, or your actions around it, or feel you aren’t in control, it’s a good idea to reach out. It is essential for individuals who struggle with alcohol addiction to get support. One of the best ways to seek help is to book an appointment with a GP. Your GP can assess your current intake and relationship with alcohol and refer you to appropriate the services, such as addiction specialists and mental health professionals.
It is important to remember that seeking help for alcohol addiction is not a sign of weakness but rather a critical step towards a better quality of life. By seeking help, you can access the support you need to overcome your addiction and improve your physical and mental health.
If you would like to speak to a GP, visit your nearest Qualitas Health here.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2021). Alcohol, tobacco & other drugs in Australia. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/alcohol-other-drug-treatment-services/alcohol-other-drug-treatment-services-australia/contents/about
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2020). National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019: Detailed findings. Canberra: AIHW.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2022). Alcohol, tobacco & other drugs in Australia. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/ab53a3c9-90b6-4f49-8c58-52828c12caef/PHE-221-Factsheets-Alcohol.pdf.aspx
Chung, H., Ritter, A., & Chalmers, J. (2017). The changing pattern of drinking in Australia, 2000-2016. National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales. Retrieved from https://ndarc.med.unsw.edu.au/resource/changing-pattern-drinking-australia-2000-2016
Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education. (2023). Alcohol-induced deaths. https://fare.org.au/alcohol-induced-deaths-in-australia/
Grant, B. F., Goldstein, R. B., Saha, T. D., Chou, S. P., Jung, J., Zhang, H., … & Hasin, D. S. (2015). Epidemiology of DSM-5 alcohol use disorder: results from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions III. JAMA psychiatry, 72(8), 757-766.
Livingston, M., Raninen, J., Slade, T., Swift, W., Lloyd, B., & Dietze, P. (2020). Changes in Australian alcohol consumption during the early COVID‐19 period: April–July 2020. Drug and Alcohol Review, 39(4), 356-363.
McKetin, R., et al. (2018). Key findings from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre’s 2018 Drug Trends Survey. Drug Trends Bulletin Series.
National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019. (2020). Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/illicit-use-of-drugs/ndshs-2019/contents/drug-types/alcohol
Room, R., Mäkelä, K., Benegal, V., Greenfield, T. K., Hettige, S., TRoom, R., Mäkelä, K., Benegal, V., Greenfield, T. K., Hettige, S., & Törrönen, J. (2010). The global distribution of the average volume of alcohol consumption and patterns of drinking. European Addiction Research, 16(4), 240-251. doi: 10.1159/000317249
Roche, A., Kostadinov, V., & Fischer, J. (2016). Women and alcohol: Insights from an Australian national survey. Drug and Alcohol Review, 35(4), 441-447. https://doi.org/10.1111/dar.12332
Skelton, E., et al. (2019). Alcohol use among midlife women in Australia. Women’s Midlife Health, 5(1), 1-8.