Jim McGinty

Jim McGinty

Attorney General; Minister for Health; Electoral Affairs

    Risky drinking on the rise in Western Australia

    17/02/2008 9:42 AM

    The State Government has launched a $530,000 ‘Rethink Drink’ advertising and partnership campaign as a key report shows, that alcohol-related incidents are harming more Western Australians than ever.

    Health Minister Jim McGinty called for the community to support the campaign to stop alcohol abuse.

    “People are simply drinking far too much, in fact 30 per cent more than we did 10 years ago, and it is having catastrophic effects,” Mr McGinty said.

    “Between 1997 and 2005, 3,975 Western Australians died from alcohol related causes.

    “People enjoying an occasional drink isn’t the problem here.

    “What we are seeing is a significant rise in illness and death caused by binge drinking.

    “The ‘Impact of Alcohol on the Population of Western Australia’ report sends a serious message that we need to rethink the way we drink.

    “In 2006, caring for people who had to be admitted to hospital as an in-patient for a condition caused by excessive alcohol consumption cost the WA community more than $33million alone.

    “This does not include other alcohol related costs incurred when people present to hospital emergency departments such as those injured in road accidents or assaults.

    “Those additional costs are considerable. For example in 2005-06, alcohol related injuries and assaults alone contributed some 30,200 presentations to metropolitan emergency departments at a conservative cost of $7.16million.

    “It has been estimated that about 60 to 80 per cent of police call-outs are alcohol-related, including violent assaults, car crashes, drowning and property damage, and up to 44 per cent of fire-related deaths are due to alcohol consumption.

    “Drinking to the point where a person becomes sick, aggressive, or vulnerable to accidents or harm seems to have become part of our culture and as a community, we all need to rethink the way we make alcohol available and promote it.

    “The message coming out of this report is that alcohol significantly impacts the entire WA community. However, there is no denying that some groups are hit particularly hard.

    “Unfortunately young people are one of these vulnerable groups, along with people in the north and east of the State, and Aboriginal people.”

    Key findings in the report include:
    • The mortality and hospitalisation rates for acute alcohol-related conditions were particularly high among young people aged 15 to 24 years. Approximately 609 young males were admitted to hospital per 100,000 people, compared with 200 males aged 50 to 59 per 100,000 people, with similar results for females.

      From previous research, it is known that at least 40 per cent of Western Australians aged 14 years and over drink at levels that put them at risk of harm from incidents like violent injury or vehicle crashes.
    • Aboriginal males were nearly nine times more likely to attend an emergency department for alcohol-related harm than non-Aboriginal males across almost all age groups, and Aboriginal women were attending emergency departments four-and-a-half times more than non-Aboriginal women.
    • A comparison of alcohol-related deaths among the nine health regions showed that the rates were significantly higher for the Kimberley, Pilbara and Goldfields in both the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal population.
    Between 1997 and 2005, the number of alcohol-related deaths in those regions were significantly higher than the State average - in the Kimberley three times, in the Pilbara two times and the Goldfields 1.6 times higher. The State Government committed a record $45.7million towards fighting the effects of alcohol and other drug abuse in WA in 2007-08. Much of this funding targeted young people, people living in regional areas and the indigenous community, through the provision of preventative and treatment services.

    “However, extra money is not the complete answer,” Mr McGinty said.

    “Change will only occur if people in the community take a stand and control their drinking habits.”

    In an Australian first, the report has provided data at a local area level, which will be a powerful service planning tool for communities and Government and non-Government agencies.

    The television, bus shelter and community partnership campaign focuses on the ugly aftermath for those affected by alcohol-fuelled incidents, including battered spouses, emergency department staff, police, cleaners, taxi drivers, parents and community members.

    The reports are available on the website of the Drug and Alcohol Office at http://www.dao.health.wa.gov.au/tabid/234/Default.aspx

    Minister's office - 9422 3000