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Drinking problem: Too many people binge

Alcohol-related crime is much higher in communities where more people binge drink, and too many people binge drink in Inverell.

That information has come from the initial findings of the Alcohol Action in Rural Communities (AARC) project.

Close collaborations with members of the Inverell community and the AARC project have helped reveal that rural NSW communities with a greater proportion of binge drinkers experience a greater number of community-level alcohol-related harms.

“Even when controlling for a range of community factors, such as population size and the rates of community-level harm in general, the rate of alcohol-related traffic accidents, and crime (e.g. malicious damage, disorderly conduct, and assaults), are greater in communities with a high-rate of short-term ‘risky’ drinking,” explained Courtney Breen, research member of the AARC team.

Inverell was one of 10 towns across NSW that has participated in the Alcohol Action program across specific weekends.

Data analysis of the rates of alcohol-related crime and traffic accidents across communities participating in the AARC project revealed that, in any given town of 10,000 people, binge drinking is associated with 40 assaults and 10 serious or fatal traffic accidents per year.

Binge-drinking is defined by the National Health and Medical Research Council, as consuming a large amount of alcohol in one sitting. That’s more than six to seven standard drinks for men, and five to six standard drinks for women. According to a survey conducted by AARC in 2005 examining alcohol consumption and risk patterns, the rate of binge drinking in Inverell (23.6 per cent), indicates a need to reduce the proportion of community individuals who currently drink at these harmful levels.

Analysis of data collected over several years in rural NSW towns and applying economic cost figures indicates that in a town of 10,000 people, a one per cent reduction in the proportion of people who binge drink would result in two less assaults per year and one less fatal car crash every three years.

A 10 per cent reduction would result in 20 less assaults and one less crash fatality every 18 months.

“These findings are important for rural NSW communities because it means that a significant reduction in emergency services and police protection costs can be achieved by encouraging individuals to monitor their level of alcohol consumption, and avoid putting themselves at short-term risk,” said Dr Suzanne Czech, a member of the AARC research team.

source: Inverell Times

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