Source: The Mercury, 19 March, 2001, p.10

Boozing's shock toll revealed

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-
   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.

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