Alcohol is the most prevalent drug used in Western Australia and causes the most drug-related harm (excluding tobacco) in the community. 1
People in Western Australia were more likely to drink alcohol in quantities that placed them at risk of harm on a single occasion (at least monthly) than the national average in 2016 (27% in Western Australia compared to 25.5% in Australia). 2
In 2014, Western Australians were hospitalised a total of 1,002 times for conditions due to alcohol related cancers. They occupied a total of 5,292 bed days in the State’s hospitals.
In 2013 approx.13 people died per month from alcohol-related cancers in WA.
In 2013 about one person per month died from alcohol-related stroke in WA.
In 2013 about one person died per week from alcohol-related liver disease in WA.
In 2014, Western Australians were hospitalised a total of 443 times for conditions due to alcohol-related liver diseases. They occupied a total of 3,309 bed days in the State's hospitals.
155 million in hospital costs in 2014.
113,549 hospital bed days used in 2014.
1 person every 27 mins was hospitalised for an alcohol-attributable condition in 2014.
There were 545 total alcohol-related deaths in 2013.
Youth drinking lowest in the decades
Students were asked if they had consumed alcohol and how recent their use was (Figure 1).
Rates of alcohol use by students has declined over the past three decades. The proportion of students drinking has significantly declined - in the past year (79.8% to 41.0%), in the past month (50.0% to 23.3%) and in the past week (33.5% to 14.5%).
In the same time period, the proportion of students reporting they have never drunk alcohol has more than tripled, increasing from 8.8% in 1984 to 38.3% in 2017.
How are the data collected
Every three years, school students in Western Australia are surveyed to find out about their drug use in the Australian School Students Alcohol and Drug Survey.
They are asked about alcohol, tobacco, other illicit and licit drug use, how much they use, how they use and their attitudes to alcohol and other drug use.
This survey has been collected since 1984, with additional drug related questions added since 1996.
The most recent survey included 3,361 young people aged from 12 to 17 years from 46 randomly selected government, Catholic and independent schools across the State.
Alcohol use in 2017 is generally higher for males and older students
The proportion of students reporting they have never drunk alcohol in 2017 is 38.3%. As Figure 2 shows, the proportion of students who report never drinking steadily decreases with increasing age. For example, 62.2% of 12 year old students reported never consuming alcohol in contrast to 13.5% of 17 year old students.
For all male students (aged 12 to 17 years), an estimated 39.2% have never consumed alcohol. Of those who reported ever drinking alcohol, 39.1% reported drinking in the past year, 20.5% in the past month and 13.3% in the past week.
For all female students, an estimated 37.3% have never consumed alcohol. Of those who reported ever drinking alcohol, 43.0% reported drinking in the past year, 26.2% in the past month and 15.8% in the past week.
Of those students who drank in the past week, boys drank more standard drinks on average than girls (18.7 drinks compared to 9.4 drinks).
Risky drinking guidelines
According to the 2009 National Health and Medical Research Council alcohol consumption guidelines not drinking alcohol is the safest option for children and young people under 18 years of age. This is particularly so for those under 15 years of age.
For adults, drinking at risk of single occasion harm (e.g. injury) is defined as having more than four standard drinks on any one day.
Defining risky drinking for students
Single occasion is the most common type of risky drinking for young people, as most students do not drink regularly. Only those who had used alcohol in the last week were asked about quantity consumed. Therefore, risky drinking for other recency periods such as past month or year cannot be calculated. Note, single occasion risk in the following analysis is defined using adult guidelines, though not drinking is the safest option for young people.
Risky drinking in 2017
Of those students who drank in the past week (14.5%), approximately three in ten (29.2%) drank at risk of single occasion harm (see Figure 3). For boys who drank in the past week (13.2%) three in ten (30.0%) drank at a risky level. Girls were similar - of those who drank in the past week (15.8%) approximately three in ten (28.4%) drank at risky levels.
Little change in risky drinking over past two decades
As Figure 4 shows, there has been an increase in the proportion of students drinking at risky levels for single occasion harm from 1984 (16.1%) up to (29.2%) in 2017.
However, the proportion of students drinking at risky levels for single occasion harm in 2017 remains substantially lower than that reported in 2011 (36.2%).
Spirits and premixed spirits are preferred
Students who drank in the past week were asked what drink they usually have (but could select more than one). Figure 5 shows the top five responses based on 12 to 17 year old preferences. Most students drank premixed spirits (39.1%), ordinary beer (35.8%) and spirits (33.9%). Low alcohol beer (19.7%) and alcoholic cider (18.8%) were also common responses.
Friends over 18 years and parents are the most common sources of alcohol
Students who drank in the past week were asked the source of their last alcoholic drink (but could select more than one). Figure 6 shows the top five responses based on 12 to 17 year old students. An estimated one third of students sourced alcohol from a friend aged 18 years or over (33.6%) and nearly one quarter from parents (22.7%).
1Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2016). Alcoholrelated Harm. Retrieved from http://www.aihw.gov.au/alcoholand-other-drugs/alcohol/harm/
2 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2017). National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2016: detailed findings. Drug Statistics series no. 31. Cat. no. PHE 214. Canberra: AIHW
*Statistics taken from Alcohol and Health infographic
Alcohol trends in Western Australia: Australian School Student Alcohol and Drug Survey retrieved from: www.mhc.wa.gov.au/reports-and-resources/reports/australian-school-students-national-alcohol-and-drug-survey/
Page last updated: 10 August 2019
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