Significant misuse of alcohol in rural areas

05 December 2011

Alcohol is consumed by more than 80 per cent of Australians, making it the most widely used drug
in Australia. Sadly, the 2010 National Drug Strategy Household Survey shows that the proportion
of those drinking at risky levels increases with geographical remoteness.
People who live in rural and remote areas are 32 per cent more likely to drink at levels that risk
causing lifetime harm and 24 per cent more likely to drink at levels that are at risk of resulting in
single-occasion harm.

This is due to a range of factors typical of rural areas including a limited range of types of venue for
recreation, stoic attitudes about help-seeking, economic and employment disadvantage, and less
access to healthcare professionals and alcohol treatment services. A combination of interventions,
targeted to meet the particular conditions and needs of rural communities, can reduce accidents and
ill health arising from misuse of alcohol.
Overall, alcohol misuse is responsible for 3.2 per cent of the total burden of disease and injury in
Australia, and estimated to cost $36 billion annually in terms of productivity losses and healthcare,
crime and child protection costs.
Prenatal overuse of alcohol is the most common cause of birth defects and Foetal Alcohol Spectrum
Disorder (FASD) and its consequences to family, society and the individual are immense. However
there are still children being born with FASD even though the condition is entirely preventable.

The Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy 2011 recommended demand and supply reduction
strategies, as well as work to reduce harm. Workplace programs and greater awareness of the
NHMRC guidelines on the use of alcohol should be part of such approaches.
The National Alliance for Action on Alcohol - of which the NRHA is a member - is another body
to have identified the need for action on alcohol pricing, taxation, marketing and promotion.

Local organisations and community groups should be closely involved in programs to reduce
alcohol misuse. People in rural and remote Australia, along with other groups facing social,
economic, employment or health disadvantage, should be prioritised in national strategies and
programs, including those of the new Australian National Preventive Health Agency.

A new Fact Sheet on alcohol in rural areas has been prepared by the NRHA in collaboration with
Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia (ADCA).

Media Enquiries: 

Lesley Barclay - Chair: 0412 282 801
Gordon Gregory - Executive Director: 02 6285 4660