Battle of the booze (Alcohol)

A shocking new report reveals just how much the grog is hurting us.

Alcohol kills an average of one Indigenous Australian every 38 hours. This is the horrifying finding of a National Drug Research Institute (NDRI) report into alcohol-attributable deaths among Indigenous Australians.

Researchers found that alcohol killed1145 Indigenous Australians between 2000 and 2004. The cause of death for more than half of these people was alcoholic liver cirrhosis or suicide, and the average age of death was a mere 35 years.

The report also found that haemorrhagic stroke, assault injury and road traffic injury each caused about one in 10 deaths.

However, the researchers discovered that trends and numbers of alcohol-attributable deaths varied widely in each State and Territory, which means that each region would need its own specific approach when it came to tackling the issue.

“This kind of information is important in planning our response to Indigenous health issues and in showing where resources should be directed for the maximum benefit,” says Dr Tanya Chikritzhs, co-author of the report and NDRI Senior Research Fellow.

NDRI Indigenous Australian Research Team Leader Dennis Gray said the figures, which should be regarded as conservative estimates, showed Australia still had a long way to go to address the inequality between the health of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

“If we are serious about addressing this disparity and reducing death rates among Indigenous Australians, we need to focus on the underlying social causes of that ill health,” he says.

“For instance, suicide is the most frequent alcohol caused death among Indigenous men, which reflects the despair that many Indigenous people feel.

“According to the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey 2004-2005, around half of all Indigenous adults (49 per cent) reported having consumed alcohol in the week prior to being surveyed. One-third of those (16 per cent) reported drinking at risky/high risk levels.

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