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Curtin University
National Drug Research Institute

Preventing Harmful Drug Use In Australia

A longitudinal study of influences on alcohol consumption and related harm in Central Australia, with a particular emphasis on the role of price

Project Team

Chief Investigator:

Professor Dennis Gray, National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University

Co-investigators:

Professor Tanya Chikritzhs, National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University
Professor Sherry Saggers
Associate Professor John Boffa, Central Australian Aboriginal Congress
Steven Skov

Project staff:

Ms Annalee Stearne, National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University

Project

This project examined the long-term impact of alcohol control measures on indicators of alcohol-related harm in Central Australia. It was found that there had been a significant reduction in alcohol consumption over the period 2000–2010. The control measures that had the greatest impact on consumption were those that were related to price: either indirectly, such as banning of low-cost beverages such as cask table and fortified wine, or directly such as the so-called ‘alcopops tax’.

Hospital separations for conditions with high and medium level alcohol attributable ætiologic fractions (excluding assaults) were significantly correlated with consumption. As average wholesale price increased, there were decreases in the rates of: acute alcohol-attributable separations (excluding assaults); conditions with high alcohol-attributable ætiologic fractions (>0.8); conditions with medium level alcohol attributable ætiologic fractions (0.3–0.8) (excluding assaults). Predictive time-series models demonstrated that – following introduction of the Alice Springs Liquor Supply Plan (LSP) which included bans on sale of table wine in casks of >2 litres and fortified wine in casks of >1 litre – observed values of separations for acute alcohol attributable conditions, especially assaults and particularly among Aboriginal women, were significantly lower than predicted on the basis of previous trends. Congruent with the finding related to separations for assault, the observed rate of Emergency Department presentations coded as ‘assault’ at triage was significantly lower after introduction of the LSP than that predicted on the basis of previous trends.

Changes in rates of alcohol-related police incident reports were largely found to be related to change in policing policy and practice and were of little value in evaluating the impact of the control measures.

While the study demonstrates that price-related control measures had a significant impact in reducing consumption and health-related harm, it also shows that price is not the only variable impacting on consumption and related harm, and that a comprehensive supply, demand and harm reduction strategy is needed to further reduce harmful levels of alcohol use in Central Australia.

Publications

Symons, M., Gray, D., Chikritzhs, T.N., Skov, S.J., Saggers, S., Boffa, J. and Low, J. (2012). A longitudinal study of influences on alcohol consumption and related harm in Central Australia: with a particular emphasis on the role of price. National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University, Perth. ISBN: 978-0-9873641-0-4 [T220] Paper