While state and federal politicians are trying to find ways to reduce the costs of Australia’s health budget –and are making themselves unpopular in the attempt — they continue to ignore the costs to the health system imposed by our heavy drinking culture.
Alcohol’s impost has been exposed in a new study by researchers at Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Research Centre. The study, entitled Alcohol’s Burden of Disease, was funded jointly by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) and VicHealth.
The results should be enough to make anyone interested in reducing the burden on our health care system to sit up and take note.
Alcohol was responsible for 5554 deaths in 2010: 3467 males died as a result of drinking and 2087 females. This represents an increased death rate of 62% over a ten year period. In addition many more Australians (n= 157,132) were admitted to hospital in 2010 due to a serious injury suffered or a disease contracted as a result of drinking too much, either on a single occasion or regularly over time. This represents one and a half times the total crowd at the MCG on Boxing Day.
Another way of understanding the toll is to measure the number of years of life lost by people who die due to excessive drinking. As alcohol ends many lives prematurely, the number of years-of-life lost far exceed the number of lives lost. Collectively, males lost 84,945 years of life, while females lost 35,223 years of life.
Amongst males, injury is the most likely cause of alcohol related death (36%) followed by cancer and digestive diseases. In females, cancer is the most prevalent cause of alcohol-related death (31%) followed by cardiovascular disease and injuries. More than 70% of alcohol related hospitalisations across both sexes are a result of neuropsychiatric diseases or injuries.
Every day alcohol kills 15 Australians and sends 430 to hospital. This is an unacceptable burden on our healthcare system and the community. Here at GrogWatch we’d like to know, how many hospital bed would be freed up on any single day if they weren’t occupied by someone suffering a preventable alcohol related condition? How much shorter would our hospital waiting lists be without the burden of alcohol related conditions?
GrogWatch calls on governments around Australia to look at the evidence published and help us change Australia’s drinking culture by limiting where, when and for what price alcohol can be sold and by preventing alcohol promotion to children.