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De factos more likely to drink heavily

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Source: James Cook University

A new study has found people who live in de facto relationships are more likely to engage in risky drinking than those who are legally married.

The innovative study has laid bare the differences between heavy drinkers in Australia and Canada – with those in de facto relationships at special risk down under. 

JCU’s Associate Professor Richard Franklin was part of a team that took the unusual path of comparing alcohol use in Queensland and the Canadian province of Alberta. He said the many similarities between the two places make the exercise valuable.

“Alberta and Queensland both have a population of around 4 million and an annual GDP of about $290 million. They have similar systems of government and they are both agriculture and resource-based economies. Comparing the two can give us valuable insights into managing alcohol problems in both places.”

The researchers asked more than 1200 people in both places about their drinking habits.

“A higher rate of hazardous alcohol use was found in Queenslanders than in Albertans. In both Albertans and Queenslanders, hazardous alcohol use was associated with being between 18 and 24 years of age,” said Dr Franklin. 

Higher income, having no religion, and living alone were also associated with alcohol risk in both Queenslanders and Albertans.

“In the Queensland group, hazardous alcohol use was also associated with common-law marital status,” said Dr Franklin.

In previous studies, legally married people and people in common-law arrangements had been grouped together.

Dr Franklin said more research was needed to examine why the common-law group was at risk from hazardous alcohol use.  

Conversely, people in Alberta living with two or more adults in the house were associated with lower rates of alcohol abuse.  

The team found hazardous alcohol use was also lower among respondents in both places who had a non-Catholic or non-Protestant religious affiliation.

Dr Franklin said the high incomes and cyclic nature of work in the resource sector, with long periods of rest, and periods of intense work, combined with the isolated location of the workplaces, might be possible work stress factors influencing higher alcohol consumption.

“Loneliness, probably due to the modern way of living in industrialised societies, has also been recognised as a cause and consequence of alcohol abuse,” he said. 

Dr Franklin said the study had produced a valuable source of information for policymakers to use when designing strategies targeting hazardous alcohol use. 

“The study highlights the importance of analysing the socio-demographic factors associated with alcohol consumption in local areas and population-specific contexts,” he said. 

Highlights:

68% of Queenslanders and 65% of Albertans reported having had at least one drink of an alcoholic beverage during the past 30 days.

Queenslanders reported having alcohol on more days during the past 30 days, and when drinking they drank more alcoholic beverages on average. Queenslanders were more likely to have had six or more drinks on a given occasion than Albertans. 

According to the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an estimated 8 litres of alcohol per capita were consumed in Canada in 2012. 

Australians consumed an estimated 10 litres of pure alcohol per capita per year in 2011, which is more than Canadians and close to the OECD average. 

Policies limiting the availability of alcohol, such as increasing the price of alcohol and regulating the places or times it can be bought, have proven to be cost-effective ways to control alcohol consumption.  

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Media contact:

Associate Professor Richard Franklin
M: 0412 757 356
P: (07) 4781 5939
E: Richard.franklin@jcu.edu.au

Dr Franklin works at JCU’s Townsville campus