New polling has shown widespread lack of understanding of the dangers of alcohol drinking among Australians including the over 50s.
The 2019 Annual Alcohol Poll by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) has shown that since 2011 there has been an over-all increase in the number of people who drink to get drunk (35 - 47 per cent). It also shows that a higher percentage of Australians living in regional, rural and remote communities are engaging in risky drinking compared to their city counterparts, and, in turn, are more concerned about the resulting harm.
FARE Chief Executive Michael Thorn said, "It is well established that rural areas have disproportionately high levels of alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harm compared to metropolitan areas, and a recent study confirmed that Australia's heaviest drinkers are likely to be middle-aged men living outside major cities."
He said it was not surprising that Australians were confused about the risks of alcohol when nebulous terms such as 'drink responsibly' and 'drink in moderation' were commonplace in alcohol marketing.
"These risky drinking patterns are concerning when almost all Australian drinkers consider themselves to be a so-called 'responsible drinker'," Mr Thorn said.
"This is even more acute in our regions, with the Poll finding that drinkers living outside major capital cities are more likely to consider themselves a responsible drinker (94% compared to 84%)."
Mr Thorn said there was strong research that showed alcohol harm increased with remoteness, with alcohol being the key factor in 30 per cent of fatal road crashes.
The poll also showed 10 per cent of over 50-year-olds consume more than six drinks on a typical occasion and six per cent of people in this age range had increased their alcohol consumption in the past year.
Two thirds of people surveyed believe that Australia has a problem with excess drinking or alcohol abuse and three quarters believe more needs to be done to reduce the harm caused by alcohol.
However there is considerable ignorance of the health effects of alcohol consumption. Fewer than half of Australians are aware of the link between alcohol use and stroke (41 per cent) mouth and throat cancer (29 per cent) and breast cancer (16 per cent).
The survey showed 38% of Australians have been affected by alcohol-related violence, including 18% who have been victims of alcohol-related violence.
FARE has been conducting an annual alcohol poll for the past 10 years. This year 1820 people aged over 18 took part in the survey.