DRINKERS in South Gippsland Shire have finished in third place, across the state, for the number of risky tipplers in their ranks, according to a new report.
Published on Wednesday, December 20, the report by the Mitchell Institute identified 24.1 per cent of South Gippslanders and 17.8 per cent of Bass Coast residents drink over the previously recommended two standard drinks a day.
Both are above the national average of 17.1 per cent but well below New South Wales’ Byron shire, which topped the national charts with 31.6 per cent risky drinkers.
After Byron, the rest of the top five highest rates of risky drinkers are all in Western Australia.
This week, the National Health and Medical Research Council released the latest Australian alcohol guidelines, changing the recommended alcohol consumption to 10 standard drinks per week and no more than four drinks in one day.
Risky alcohol consumption is responsible for 4.6 per cent of Australia’s burden of disease and an estimated 33 per cent of the mental illness disease burden and 22 per cent of suicide deaths globally.
Andrew Compton practices psychology in Wonthaggi, he says that alcohol can act as an easy way for people, who have been in stressful or traumatic situations, to self-medicate.
“I’m not an expert on the area, but while it is possibly linked to the lower socio-economic status of the area, more importantly it is a strongly accepted thing in the culture,” he said.
Professor Rosemary Calder from the Mitchell Institute agrees, saying the new data “suggests that a culture of drinking plays the biggest factor in risky drinking rates, and alcohol prices are also influencing drinking patterns.”
The report recommends a 10 per cent tax hike on alcohol, as well as a higher tax rate for drinks over six per cent alcohol content.
Greater Dandenong has the lowest risky drinking rate in the country of just 6.5 per cent, with the study finding that lower socio-economic metropolitan communities and those with high migrant populations were more likely to have lower rates of risking drinking.
In response to the new figures, Bass Coast Shire Council Resilient Communities General Manager Jodi Kennedy said: “Council would prefer that no one in our community consumed alcohol at risky levels due to the serious health risks associated with excessive alcohol consumption.
“For this reason, reducing harmful alcohol and drug use is one of eight priority areas in Council’s Municipal Public Health and Wellbeing Plan.”