The 2016 Chief Health Officer’s Report, Trends in alcohol use and health-related harms in NSW, has revealed a new picture of community drinking patterns.
The report found that people are still drinking too much, with a quarter of all adults drinking at levels that put their long-term health at risk.
But what may be surprising to some is that daily drinking is highest for people over 65 years and lowest for people aged 16-24 years.
NSW Health's Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said she was pleased to see that young people are initiating drinking later and are drinking at less hazardous levels than previous years.
"It is also encouraging to see there are a decreasing number of adults drinking at levels that increase long-term risk of harm. However, improvements can still be made in reducing harmful drinking in men, young adults, Aboriginal people, and people living in regional and remote areas of NSW," said Dr Chant.
The number of high school students who drank alcohol in the past 12 months dropped significantly from 63.5 per cent in 2005 to 43.7 per cent in 2014. Alcohol-attributable hospitalisations for 15-24 year olds have also decreased over the past nine years.
Dr Chant said the report also shows about one in seven people aged 65 years or over drank alcohol daily (14.8%) – substantially higher than the youngest age groups (0.8% of people aged 16-24 years and 3.3% of people aged 25-44 years).
"Excessive alcohol consumption is one of the main preventable public health problems in Australia, with alcohol use noted as the leading contributor to the burden of disease in Australia for people 25 to 44 years of age," said Dr Chant.
"It not only affects the drinker but can also contribute to relationship and family problems, public intoxication, and other criminal offences. Alcohol use also increases the likelihood and extent of aggressive behaviour."
Other key findings of the Report include that Aboriginal people are equally as likely to abstain from drinking alcohol as non-Aboriginal people and that one-third of adults do not drink alcohol, with higher rates for women and people born in non-English speaking countries.
NSW Health provides a range of specialist drug and alcohol treatment services addressing both short- and long-term impacts arising from alcohol misuse. This includes withdrawal management, community-based counselling and case management, the Involuntary Drug and Alcohol Treatment Program and hospital-based consultation liaison services.
NSW Health also offers information and education to the public in several ways such as on the Your Room website as well as through a 24 hours/day hotline for crisis assistance. For further information, please visit: www.yourroom.com.au