Conducted every 2 or 3 years, the Survey collected information from almost 24,000 people in the last half of 2013.* It asked people about their use, attitudes and opinions on alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs.
Many of the key results of the strategy were released a couple of months ago (read GrogWatch – Less under 18s drinking alcohol but more to be done), but the full report includes a much more detailed breakdown of who are using what drugs where, as well as more comprehensive information about what people think about drug alcohol and drug policies.
And it makes fascinating reading for anyone interested in health promotion in this country. But at 150 pages plus data tables, it’s a big job getting your head around it.
So we’ve picked out GrogWatch’s 5 interesting findings.
1. Prevention is working and messages about the harms of underage drinking are getting through.
Underage drinking is a key area which public health groups have been targeting, because we know that drinking early increases the risk of alcohol problems later in life.
The delay in young people starting to drink is a key indicator that Australia’s relationship with alcohol is starting to change. The age at which people are now having their first drink has significantly increased from 14.4 years in 1998 to 15.7 years. The proportion of people aged 12-17 who have never had a full serve of alcohol has risen 6% to 68%.
2. Alcohol harm is real. And people care.
The problem is still real and people are concerned about it. There are 5,500 deaths a year due to alcohol. That figure should not be taken lightly because these are avoidable deaths. Alcohol is far and away the drug of most concern to Australians.
3. Harm is not spread equally across the community.
Social, economic and geographic factors can increase or decrease how likely you are to use or be harmed by alcohol or other drugs. Factors include sexual orientation (people who identify as being homosexual or bisexual are more likely to drink alcohol in risky quantities), mental health problems, where you live (particularly if you live in a remote area) and your socioeconomic status.
4. People want to reduce the amount they drink.
People who had taken action to reduce their drinking have done so by reducing the amount they drank in one go and how often they drink. This finding shows great opportunity for health promoters, because it shows that many drinkers are well aware of the health benefits of reducing alcohol consumption.
5. There’s a lot of work to go yet.
We can see that public health effort are creating shifts in attitudes, behaviour and culture about alcohol. But now’s when we should put our foot to the floor not ease off the gas as some conservative commentators would have you believe.
Current Australian drinking guidelines for women who are pregnant, are planning a pregnancy, or are breastfeeding say not drinking is the safest option. Yet about a quarter of them do. Of those who do drink when they know they are pregnant 96% usually drink 1-2 standard drinks.
These are clear indicators that primary prevention is working and we should be shouting it from the rooftops. If we don’t who will? Congratulations to all and keep up the hard work.
To read more stats and facts you can read the full report here or see a collection of statistic reports here. There are many interesting findings within in it, including state specific and age specific breakdowns on use and attitudes to alcohol and other drugs.
* While this makes it the largest survey of its kind in Australia, it should be acknowledged that it only surveyed a very small proportion of the population and excludes people who are institutionalised or homeless.