Definition of alcohol-related injuries
Alcohol-related injuries is a term used to describe injuries which have been attributed to the effects of alcohol. All injuries have the potential to be alcohol-related, however some injury topics experience heightened attribution.
Impact of alcohol-related injuries on Western Australia
Who does it impact?
In 2019, at least once a month 1 in 4 Western Australians drank alcohol in quantities that placed them at risk of injury.1
Alcohol was reported as the highest risk factor for injury in Australia, contributing 15% of the overall burden of injuries in 2018.2
In WA in 2012 alcohol was attributed to;3
- 245 injury fatalities (17.5% of injury fatalities),
- 5,911 injury hospitalisations (11.8% of injury hospitalisations), and
- 56,057 emergency department visits (32% of emergency department injury presentations).
What is alcohol’s attribution to injury topics?
- FARE’s 2020 Alcohol Poll found that over one in three Australians (40%) self-reported that they have been affected by alcohol-related violence, including 18% who have directly experienced alcohol-related violence.4
- In 2019, alcohol use was a risk factor for 14.4% of Australia’s intentional self-harm and non-suicidal injuries.2
- The driver was suspected to be under the influence of alcohol or alcohol was the primary cause of the crash in 42 road traffic fatalities in Western Australia in 2020 (27% of all road traffic fatalities).5
- In the 2020/21 financial year, 25 drowning deaths in Australia were known to involve alcohol (8.5% of all drowning deaths). It is also important to note that the presence of alcohol was not known in 81% of all cases.6
Impact on health system
In 2012, the total lifetime cost of the 62,213 alcohol-related injury fatalities, hospitalisations and ED presentations in WA was an estimated $1.9 billion due to the health care costs, long term care needs, loss in paid productivity, and quality of life lost.3
Determinants of alcohol-related injuries
Injury incidence and severity has reported to increase with the amount of alcohol used and be influenced by the pattern of drinking over time.7 Even at moderate doses, alcohol use can impact risk-taking behaviour and psychomotor performance, including cognition, vision, coordination, judgement and reaction time8,9,which can influence the risk of injury to the alcohol user and those around them.
Younger people are over represented in harm resulting from alcohol-related injury, which may be attributable to their developing bodies being more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol, a developing brain and some younger people drinking large quantities of alcohol within a single occasion on a regular occurrence.10
Individuals with a low socioeconomic status experience a number of factors that can place them at an increased risk of alcohol-related injuries, including poor quality housing, unsafe drinking environments and unsafe drinking practices.11
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience disproportionate harms from alcohol-related injuries.12 Harmful alcohol use levels among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the resulting alcohol-related injuries has been attributed to cultural disconnection, trauma, social exclusion, community stressors and mental illness.12,13
Reducing the availability of alcohol by monitoring outlet density, limiting opening hours and restricting licenses has proven to decrease alcohol-related injuries, in particular alcohol-related violence. Additionally, controlling the price of alcohol is one of the most effective measures to reduce alcohol-related harm14, with the Northern Territory’s implementation of a Minimum Unit Price for alcohol leading to reductions in alcohol-related ED presentations, intensive care hospital admissions, road crashes, child protection cases and assaults.15
Western Australian example: A number of policies are in place in WA that aim to reduce alcohol-related harm, including requirements regarding the licensing for the sale of alcohol, trading hours of licensed premises, proof of age, underage drinking on licensed premises, refusing the service of alcohol, secondary supply of alcohol, drinking on unlicensed premises, possession of alcohol, promotion of alcohol, pregnancy warning labels on alcohol products and drink driving legislation.16
Well-funded and sustained community centred measures focusing on alcohol use, such as mass media public education campaigns informing the community of the harms from alcohol, have proven to be beneficial in changing community members knowledge, attitudes and beliefs towards alcohol use.17,18
Western Australian example: Royal Life Saving WA’s Make the Right Call is a campaign that encourages all Australian’s to look after their mates when around inland waterways and raises awareness of the effects of alcohol on an individuals risk of drowning.
Organisations and programs in Western Australia
Injury Matters Alcohol-related Injuries Resources
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019. (2020) doi:10.25816/E42P-A447.
- AIHW. Australian Burden of Disease Study 2018: Interactive data on risk factor burden. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/burden-of-disease/abds-2018-interactive-data-risk-factors/contents/about (2021).
- Hendrie D, Miller T, Randall S, Brameld K, Moorin R. Incidence and costs of injury in WA 2012. Perth: Chronic Disease Prevention Directorate Department of Health WA; 2016.
- Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education. 2020 Annual Alcohol Poll Attitudes & Behaviours. https://fare.org.au/wp-content/uploads/ALCPOLL-2020.pdf (2020).
- Road Safety Commission. WA Road Fatalities 2020. (2021).
- Royal Life Saving Society – Australia. Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report 2021. 64 https://royallifesavingwa.com.au/news/community/national-drowning-report-2021?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=First%20Aid&utm_content=First%20Aid+CID_d44dc1842d7bed829064cdd2249bf337&utm_source=Campaign%20Monitor%20Emails (2021).
- Babor, T. F. et al. Alcohol: No Ordinary Commodity. (Oxford University Press, 2010). doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199551149.001.0001.
- Macdonald, S. et al. Chapter 19: Alcohol consumption and injury. in Alcohol (Oxford University Press;, 2013).
- Chikritzhs, T. & Livingston, M. Alcohol and the Risk of Injury. Nutrients 13, 2777 (2021).
- Department of Health. National Alcohol Strategy 2019–2028. 44 (2019).
- Roberts, H. & Meddings, D. Violence and unintentional injury: equity and social determinants. in Equity, social determinants, and public health programmes 243–259 (World Health Organization, 2010).
- Gray, D. et al. Review of the harmful use of alcohol among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. (2018).
- Mental Health Commission. Western Australian Alcohol and Drug Interagency Strategy 2018-2022. (2018).
- World Health Organization. Tackling NCDs ‘Best buys’ and other recommended interventions for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases. (2017).
- Taylor, N. et al. The impact of a minimum unit price on wholesale alcohol supply trends in the Northern Territory, Australia. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health 45, 26–33 (2021).
- Western Australia Department of Justice. Liquor Control Act 1988. (2021).
- Young, B. et al. Effectiveness of Mass Media Campaigns to Reduce Alcohol Consumption and Harm: A Systematic Review. Alcohol Alcohol 53, 302–316 (2018).
- Alcohol. Think Again. Parents, Alcohol and Young People ‘I need you to say no’. (2021).