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Research into hidden costs of alcohol wins national award

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Date Published:
28 Jun 2011
Contact person:
Marion Downey
+612 9385 1080 / 0401 713 850

A collaborative study into the range and magnitude of the harm caused by alcohol abuse on people other than the drinker has won the 2011 Excellence in Research award at the National Drug and Alcohol Awards on 24 June.

The study, commissioned by the Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation (AER) Foundation, represents a sustained, comprehensive effort by a group of researchers to quantify alcohol’s harm to others.

Published in conjunction with the Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre in Melbourne and researchers from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) at the University of NSW, the 'Beyond the Drinker: Alcohol’s hidden costs' report is the first ever to systematically evaluate the harms of alcohol to people other than the drinker.

It draws on and analyses a wide variety of existing and newly developed data, including a national survey of more than 2,600 Australians aged 18 or older, conducted in 2008.

According to the study, almost three quarters of all adults in Australia were negatively affected over a one-year period by someone else’s drinking, in ways ranging from minor annoyance to physical violence or death.

One of the authors, Professor Chris Doran*, said this research adds to previous work done on the cost of alcohol’s harm.

“Collins and Lapsley, in 2008, tallied the cost of alcohol’s harms to be in the billions of dollars,” Professor Doran said. “This study adds costs not included in their research, including $13 billion in forgone wages or productivity, and around $6 billion of largely intangible costs.”

Australia has a well-documented culture of binge drinking and some of the highest rates of alcohol abuse in the world, Professor Doran said. The study was also able to map the social location of the harm, both for the drinker and the person adversely affected.

Another NDARC researcher and PhD student who contributed to the study, Mr Thameemul (Ansari) Jainullabudeen, said that researchers at the Centre were proud to have contributed the economic modelling for the award-winning report.

“Awards like this one help to raise awareness of the considerable costs of the harms of alcohol to the broader community,” Ansari said. “We hope this may have a similar effect as the body of research on the cost and harms of passive smoking, which has, over a long period of time, led to improvements in public policy aimed at reducing smoking and its related harms in the general population.”

The National Drug and Alcohol Awards are an annual event that celebrates achievements to prevent and reduce alcohol and other drug use and harm in Australia. They are a collaborative effort of the Ted Noffs Foundation, the Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia, the Australian Drug Foundation and the Australian National Council on Drugs.

The Excellence in Research award recognises the significance of the winning research and its relevance, and its benefit to the community as a whole. It was presented at a gala dinner at the Four Seasons in Sydney last Friday night.

*Professor Doran worked on the report while at NDARC. He is now affiliated with the Hunter Medical Research Institute, Hunter Valley Research Foundation and the University of Newcastle.

For further information please contact Marion Downey of NDARC (details below) or contact principal author Anne-Marie Laslett of Turning Point on (03) 8413 8413.