When most people think of extreme binge-drinkers, they tend to imagine blue-collar booze hounds and unemployed teenage hoons. However, new research into Australian drinking habits has found that higher income earners are actually more likely to indulge in risky alcohol consumption.
Drunk socialite picture from Shutterstock
In an attempt to pinpoint the factors that make Australians drink heavily, researchers from the University of New South Wales surveyed 2,977 randomly selected individuals from 20 regional communities in NSW. The survey identified common traits that can lead to risky alcohol consumption at both the individual and community level.
At the community-level, a large number of hotels and clubs combined with a limited police presence was positively associated with risky drinking. Obvious stuff, really.
When it came to individuals, unmarried males with below-average health were more likely to be drinking at potentially harmful levels in the long term. At the short term, income also played a decisive role, although not in the direction many people would assume:
Being younger, unmarried, Australian born and with a larger income (at least $700.00 per week) was associated with drinking at levels for risk of harm in the short term.
The report concludes that interventions and preventative measures need to be tailored at the individual- community-level to effectively target the type of harm:
Rates of risky drinking vary significantly between communities with individual and community factors significantly associated with drinking at levels for risk of harm in the short and long term, and alcohol-related harm. To be optimally effective, interventions should be tailored to individual communities and target the type of harm (e.g. reducing alcohol availability by limiting the number of pubs, to reduce drinking at levels for harm in the short term). A range of complementary individual-level and community-level strategies should be implemented simultaneously.
In a separate NHMRC study, it was found that around half of surveyed Australians did not know the alcohol guideline threshold for women, while a whopping 79.9 per cent did not know the threshold for men. The survey also found that 21.6 per cent of adults drank in excess of the NHMRC guideline threshold.