Alcohol is Australia's most widely used drug. According to the Australian Drug Foundation, 86.2 per cent of Australians aged 14 years and over have admitted to drinking alcohol at least once in their lives.
Meanwhile, around 20 per cent of them drink to an extent that causes health-related harm at some point. It is for health reasons that the Australian Medical Association (AMA) recently called on both federal and state governments to do more.
However, AMA President Professor Brian Owler said since these authorities were asked to develop a new National Alcohol Strategy nine months ago, very little has been done since.
"The response from most governments has been slow, but the tragic results of alcohol abuse continue at a fast pace, taking lives, destroying health, fuelling domestic violence, breaking up families, and ruining lives," he explained.
"Australia has a problem with alcohol – a big problem. More than half of Australian drinkers consume alcohol in excess of the recommended intake, and one in five Australians drink alcohol at a level that puts them at risk of lifetime harm for injury or disease."
The effects of excessive alcohol
Alcohol consumption has been linked to a wide range of illnesses and conditions that could easily see people claiming on their health insurance policies.
Some of the most common include:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Liver disease
- Neonatal issues
- Mental health conditions
- Long-term cognitive impairment
It is also considered a social inhibitor, with the effect of alcohol abuse on families widely reported.
"Alcohol-related violence, chronic disease, accidents, and death occur frequently, and harm not only the individual drinker, but also families, bystanders, and the wider community," Professor Owler continued.
From a business perspective
The impact of alcohol misuse on businesses is also rather high. Smart Company recently published research by National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction at Flinders University to find that employers nationally lose $3 billion a year due to absenteeism for 11.5 million alcohol-related sick days.
The Australian Drug Foundation also says that one in 10 workers have experienced the negative effects of alcohol abuse among a co-worker.
The health risks – as well as the social ones – could therefore form a part of an employer's corporate health plan, to reduce the medical impacts of alcohol and improve the wellbeing of their workforces.
Is a new strategy needed?
Statistics from the National Health and Medical Research Centre shows that the authority's funding for alcohol research has increased from $900,000 at the turn of the millennium to $11.49 million in 2015. But is it enough?
"We are not calling for a ban on alcohol: we are calling for a safer and more responsible drinking culture in this country," The AMA president continued.
"A National Alcohol Strategy – agreed and owned by all Australian governments – is needed to help drive this important change. We need it now. It will save lives."
The organisation outlined a strategy to better confront the issues, and subsequently put less strain on hospitals, help centres and the healthcare industry as a whole. The AMA's plan includes:
- More community-led education around the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption;
- Increased availability of targeted treatment and alcohol prevention services;
- Specific responses to Aboriginal and Torres Islander alcohol-related needs;
- Developing and implementation statutory regulation around the marketing and promotion of alcohol;
- More support for research of alcohol-related harms;
- A review of current alcohol pricing and taxation;
- Transparent policy development performed independently and outside of the influence of the drinks industry.
HICA helps individuals, families and businesses mitigate against some of the most pressing health risks felt by people across the country.
To look into your health insurance needs, call us today on 1300 44 22 01.