Exploring the rise in alcohol-induced deaths in Australia

Exploring the rise in alcohol-induced deaths in Australia

There were 1,742 alcohol-induced deaths in Australia in 2022. This was 160 more deaths than in 2021 and over 500 more than in 2013. 2022 marks the fourth year in a row that the number of deaths has been on the rise.

In this blog post, we explore the numbers reported by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE), the underlying causes of death, susceptible age groups, and potential ways to combat this issue.

Alcohol-induced deaths by the numbers

From the 1,742 total deaths last year, alcoholic liver disease was the leading underlying cause, with 1,046 deaths being a result of this. Other leading underlying causes are mental and behavioural disorders caused by alcohol (349) and accidental poisoning and exposure to alcohol (108). The latter of which can be easily avoided with proper education and awareness.

The report found that males were more than twice as likely to die from alcohol use than females. The age group most susceptible to this kind of death was the 55-64 year age group for both males and females.

The 45-54 year and 65 year and above age groups were the next two most susceptible age demographics.

NSW recorded the highest number of deaths among any other state at 560; however, Tasmania had the highest rate of alcohol-induced deaths at 9.4 per 100,000 people or 65 deaths. Queensland recorded 6.9 deaths per 100,000 people, making it the second highest among Australian states behind Tasmania and followed by NSW.

These three states reported higher rates of alcohol-induced deaths than the national death rate of 6 deaths per 100,000 people. 

In terms of socioeconomic status, those who are in the least advantaged socioeconomic quintile were found to be over 3 times more likely to die from alcohol-induced causes compared to the most advantaged. As we go higher up the quintile, the occurrences of alcohol-induced deaths become less common.

Although most of the alcohol-induced deaths occurred in capital cities at 948 (5.1 deaths per 100,000), the remainder of states had a higher death rate of 7.6 deaths per 100,000 people, totalling 779 deaths, despite having a smaller population.

Why are there so many alcohol-induced deaths?

From the data seen in the report, it is clear that all but four of the 1,742 deaths in 2022 were not intentional but instead, were a result of diseases, disorders and accidental poisoning. The data also showed that people within the age group of 55 and above were more susceptible to death or diseases from alcohol consumption.

As we age, our body composition changes, and we process alcohol differently. This means that to an older person, alcohol becomes more potent. Leading to faster impairment, reduced tolerance, and decreased metabolism.

Certain individuals who take medication for health reasons may find that their medication interacts with alcohol, amplifying its effects, and causing adverse reactions.

Reduced liver function and alcohol tolerance as we age

Liver disease is the leading cause of alcohol-induced deaths in 2022, and this could be directly related to risky alcohol consumption among senior citizens as senior citizens make up most of these deaths.

With age, the liver may undergo structural changes, which could lead to decreased functional capacity, increasing the risk of harm caused by drinking. This can result in a slower rate of alcohol metabolism, which causes alcohol to stay in the bloodstream longer and makes it more sensitive to its effects.

Common liver diseases associated with alcohol include liver cirrhosis and acute hepatitis.

With that being said, older individuals need to consider their liver health when consuming alcohol.

LEARN MORE: Alcohol use among senior citizens

Lack of awareness and education can cause alcohol-induced death

As mentioned, a lot of the deaths recorded were from accidental alcohol poisoning. By measuring how much alcohol we have consumed, we’re able to put a cap on when it is best to put the bottle down and call it a night.

This can be done through the use of a breathalyser that can accurately estimate our blood alcohol content. Below is a chart of BAC levels and their corresponding symptoms.

 

AlcoSense Zenith+ breathalyser in car

BAC Level

Symptoms

0.00%BAC

Sober. There's no alcohol in your blood.

0.01% to 0.05%BAC

Altered mood, relaxation, lowered alertness and impaired judgement

0.06% to 0.15%BAC

Reduced muscle coordination, reduced reaction time, slurred speech, nausea, loss of balance and some muscle control.

0.16% to 0.30%BAC

Confusion, drowsiness. Individual may also notice their coordination, motor skills, decision-making, and judgement becomes dangerously impaired. 

0.4%BAC or over

Potentially fatal BAC level. Drinkers are at risk of come or death from respiratory arrest.

 

Alcohol addiction

Alcohol addiction can cause an accidental overdose which is a well-documented cause of death among many individuals.

Chronic alcohol abuse or alcohol use disorder can cause liver damage, cardiovascular problems, mental health complications, and of course, alcohol poisoning. The risks associated with alcohol deaths highlight the importance of seeking help and treatment for alcohol addiction.

Apart from death, excessive alcohol consumption poses plenty of risk factors to one’s overall wellbeing in the short term and long term as addiction is known to damage relationships and sabotage the struggling addict’s chances at success in life.

LEARN MORE: How to treat an alcohol addiction?

Solutions to help reduce alcohol-induced deaths

Education and awareness play a pivotal role in reducing alcohol deaths in Australia. Awareness campaigns should seek to address misconceptions, debunk myths, promote responsible drinking habits, and offer help to those struggling with alcohol addiction or abuse.

As most Australians spend the majority of their time in the workplace, the workplace can also be an underestimated site to promote alcohol safety and help those struggling with alcohol abuse disorder.

READ MORE: Using the workplace for alcohol and drug abuse intervention

By empowering Australians with knowledge, the community can foster responsible behaviour and create a supportive environment to promote responsible drinking.

Browse through Andatech’s wide range of personal breathalysers to help you make decisions on responsible drinking and maintain a safe environment at home, at the workplace and on the road.


Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for general reference only. Please seek advice from professionals according to your business’s needs.

Written by Andatech Pty Ltd

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