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Alcohol consumption and health inequalities - the role of alcohol policy

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Date Commenced:
Project Supporters:

NHMRC Early Career Fellowship

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Project Members: 
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Dr Michael Livingston
Post-Doc Fellow
Project Main Description: 

Alcohol-related harms contribute substantially to the burden of disease in Australia, with a wide range of acute and chronic consequences associated with alcohol consumption. The relationship between alcohol and socio-economic status is less clear, with overall consumption generally higher among more advantaged sub-groups, but with harm rates often higher for disadvantaged Australians. There has been little research into the complex interplay between alcohol and health inequalities or into whether alcohol policies can contribute to lessening (or increasing) health disparities between the rich and poor in Australia.This project aims to  investigate the association between alcohol and socio-economic status in Australia.

Project Collaborators: External: 

Professor Robin Room
(Centre for Alcohol Research Policy/Turning Point)


To comprehensively investigate the association between alcohol and socio-economic status in Australia.

Design and Method: 

This project will use existing data sources including the National Drug Strategy Household Survey and the National Hospital Morbidity Dataset to examine trends and patterns in alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harms based on socio-economic factors. This will include, for example, examining whether the relationship between self-reported consumption levels and self-reported harms from drinking varies across the socio-economic gradient.


The focus of the fellowship has broadened, with studies examining trends in alcohol consumption, the impact of alcohol policy and the links between socio-economic status and drinking all underway. Analyses of the National Drug Strategy Household Survey make up a major component of this work, including an examination of recent trends in youth drinking, an exploration of how risk-taking when drinking varies by socio-economic status and methodological work on the under-reporting of alcohol consumption in surveys. Work in 2015 will broaden to incorporate analyses of data on alcohol-related harms.



Livingston, M. (2014) Socio-economic differences in alcohol-related risk-taking behaviours. Drug and Alcohol Review. 33(6): 588-595.

Livingston, M. & Room, R. (2014) Understanding how population-level alcohol consumption changes. Addiction. 109(9): 1456-1458.

Livingston, M. (2014) Alcohol outlet density: the challenge of linking research findings to policy. Australasian Epidemiologist. 21(2): 22-24

Livingston, M. (2014) Trends in non-drinking amongst Australian adolescents. Addiction, 109(6):922-929.

Jiang, J., Livingston, M., Manton, E. (in press, accepted 26/8/2014) The effects of Random Breath Testing and lowering the minimum legal drinking age on traffic fatalities in Australian states. Injury Prevention

Jiang, J., Livingston, M., Room, R. (in press, accepted 20/10/2014) Alcohol consumption and fatal injuries in Australia before and after major traffic safety initiatives: A time series analysis. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research

Rowland, B., Toumbourou, J., Satyen, L., Livingston, M., Williams, J. (2014) The relationship between the density of alcohol sales outlets and parental supply of alcohol to adolescents. Addictive Behaviors. 39(12): 1898-1903.

Raninen, J., Livingston, M., Leifman, H. (2014) Declining trends in alcohol consumption among Swedish youth – does the theory of collectivity of drinking cultures apply? Alcohol and Alcoholism. 49(6): 681-686.

Callinan, S., Livingston, M., Dietze, P., & Room, R. (2014) Heavy drinking occasions in Australia: Do context and beverage choice differ from low-risk drinking occasions? Drug and Alcohol Review, 33(4): 354-357.

Callinan, S., Room, R., Livingston, M. (2014) Changes in Australian Attitudes to Alcohol Policy: 1995-2010. Drug and Alcohol Review. 33(3): 227-234.

Dietze, P., Livingston, M., Callinan, S. & Room, R. (2014) The big night out: what happens on the most recent heavy drinking occasion amongst young Victorian risky drinkers? Drug and Alcohol Review, 33(4): 346-353.


Dr Livingston has presented early work to international conferences in Uganda and Scotland.
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