Source: The Mercury, 19 March, 2001, p.10
BINGE drinking among young people is rivalling chronic alcohol-related diseases in its impact on the community, researchers say. A new study of the impact of alcohol in Australian so- ciety shows that more than 62,900 person-years of life are lost annually. The National Drug Re- search Institute said "acute" problems caused by drinking to excess including road acci- dents and violence caused 46 per cent of life years lost. This compares with 33 per cent due to chronic conditions such as cirrhosis and cancer, 6 per cent for stroke and 14 per cent for suicide. The number of years lost through deaths from acute conditions is more than twice that from chronic conditions because of the number of young people involved. "More effective public health strategies are needed to reduce the harm associated with occasional high-risk drinking, especially among young people," one of the researchers, Tanya Chik- ritchs, said. The researchers reviewed the 3290 alcohol-related deaths in Australia in 1997, finding that the largest num- ber of deaths related to long- term alcohol misuse and de- pendence. However, the largest num- ber of years of life lost was atttributable to vehicle acci- dents and assaults, mainly among people aged 15 to 29. "There is no doubt that the bulk of the economic burden on society as a result of alcohol misuse arises from productivity losses due to premature death," they said. "Estimates of the costs of productivity losses far out- weigh any costs associated with health-related medical and hospital treatments in- curred from alcohol-caused death and injury." Warning that simply counting numbers of deaths fails to describe adequately the impact of alcohol-related harm in the community, the researchers called for preven- tion policies aimed at spor- adic high-risk drinking as well as strategies to combat long-term drinking. An intake of more than six standard drinks for men, and four for women, at least once a month is considered haz- ardous drinking. AAP
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