On the weekend News.com.au produced this article on binge drinking where the statistics have been broken down by Medicare Local districts. Interestingly they found that the consumption of “11 or more standard drinks in one sitting at least once a week” ranges across middle class suburbs. Why are we surprised?
Alcohol has no borders. It will happily join you at any time.
Some people have thought that people in disadvantaged areas drink more than people on high incomes; however a longitudinal study in Finland showed that becoming unemployed did not necessarily increase one’s average alcohol consumption[i]. Yet many researchers suggest that while those in lower-income groups might drink on fewer occasions than people on high incomes, they tend to have a more harmful pattern of use i.e. drinking more heavily on those occasions.[ii].
Some studies on SES (socio-economic status) and alcohol consumption have produced results that vary greatly[iii]. We do know that less advantaged people have a higher burden of alcohol related harm,[iv] but some have argued that this may be combined with other factors (e.g. unhealthy food.) A longitudinal Australian study for the period 1981-2002 found that liver cirrhosis (largely alcohol related) had increased markedly among manual workers compared to non-manual workers, and was probably related to the affordability of alcohol over time.[v]
Interestingly there is evidence to suggest that takeaway liquor outlets and licensed clubs were significantly more likely to be located in areas of socio-economic disadvantage compared to restaurant and hotel licenses in advantaged areas[vi].
Whilst socio-economic status may be a variable there are also other variables that influence risky drinking.
What we do know is that pricing, availability and advertising have an impact on consumption, so regardless what postcode you live in – you are a target.
[i] Makela, P Alcohol related mortality during an economic recession, Contemporary drug problems: an interdisciplinary quarterly Volume 26 Fall 1999
[ii]Anderson, Peter Global use of alcohol, drugs and tobacco Drug and Alcohol Review (November 2006), 25, 489 – 502
[iii] Bloomfield, K etal Social inequalities in alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems in the study countries of the eu concerted action ‘gender, culture and alcohol problems: a multi-national study’, Alcohol and Alcoholism, 2006, Vol.41
[iv] Livingston, Michael The social gradient of alcohol availability in Victoria, Australia ANJPH vol 36 no 1 2012
[v] Najman J. et al Increasing socioeconomic inequalities in male cirrhosis of the liver mortality: Australia 1981 – 2002. Drug and Alcohol Review, 26, 273 – 278, 2007
[vi] Livingston, 2012.