Australia needs to introduce tough measures, including raising the drinking age and increasing taxes on alcohol, to reduce the number of drinking related injuries and deaths.
A Queensland University of Technology (QUT) addictions expert will tell the 10th National Conference on Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion in a keynote address today (November 4) that Australians have been complacent about alcohol misuse.
Professor Ross Young, executive director of the Institute for Health and Biomedical Innovation (IHBI) at QUT, said about 10 per cent of injury-related hospitalisations in Australia, or more than 35,000 admissions per year, were due to alcohol.
“We have put much of our resources and thinking into people with severe problems, but most of the harm occurs to people who are not alcohol dependent,” he said.
“We have got to shift our thinking from the severe end of the spectrum of problem drinking to look at Australians’ drinking habits overall.”
Professor Young said smoking reduction and anti-drink driving campaigns were successful examples of how to curb harmful behaviours.
“We need to mobilise similar strategies and thinking about alcohol misuse,” he said.
“There has been complacency about an issue that is still causing enormous harm to communities, particularly to young Australians.”
Professor Young said a comprehensive strategy to tackle alcohol misuse would include raising the price of alcohol through taxation, increasing the drinking age to 21, implementing effective prevention programs and reducing social disadvantage.
He said a move in the United States in the 1980s to legislate a uniform drinking age of 21 across the country reduced the number of young people killed in road traffic crashes by 47 per cent.
“We have effectively mobilised community action against smoking and drink driving; we can generate similar support to more effectively deal with alcohol,” Professor Young said.
The conference, held from November 2 to 4, brought international injury prevention and safety promotion experts to Brisbane to discuss water safety, drowning, child safety, workplace injury prevention and road and transport safety.
An initiative of the Australian Injury Prevention Network (AIPN), the conference is hosted this year by QUT’s Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety – Queensland (CARRS-Q) at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.
For more information on drinking alcohol, including drinking disorders and alcohol’s effect on the body, as well as some useful tools, see Alcohol and Drinking.