Alcohol divide splits inner Melbourne and growth areas

Posted on: Monday, 14 October 2013

New research by Turning Point Alcohol & Drug Centre, funded by VicHealth and the Australian Research Council, has found young people in inner-Melbourne were more likely to have liberal attitudes than those in growth areas when it comes to alcohol.

A paper published in Urban Policy and Research today identified how young adults’ drinking patterns and attitudes vary across Melbourne. The Drinking patterns and attitudes for young people paper by Turning Point researcher Dr Sarah MacLean used data from the most recent Victorian Youth Alcohol and Drug Survey. It compared the responses of those living in growth areas such as Casey, Cardinia, Melton, Whittlesea, Wyndham and Mitchell; with those in inner Melbourne, including Port Phillip, Stonington, Yarra and the City of Melbourne.

The study of young people aged 16 to 24-years-old found:
•    76 per cent of young people in inner Melbourne agreed that having a drink was one of the pleasures of life, compared to just 66 per cent in outer Melbourne.

•    When asked “to what extent do you think it is wrong for someone your age to drink regularly?” 63 per cent of young people in inner Melbourne thought it was ‘not wrong at all’, compared to just 50 per cent in growth areas.

•    68 per cent of young people in growth areas agreed ‘a drunk person is a disgusting sight’ compared to 64 per cent in inner Melbourne.

The paper states the preferred drink of young people aged 16-24 years in inner Melbourne was regular strength beer, with pre-mixed spirits preferred in growth areas. Drinking at licensed venues was more common in inner Melbourne and drinking at private parties was more frequently reported by young people in growth areas.

The research also looked at underaged drinking, and found that:
•    94 per cent of 16-17 year olds in inner Melbourne had drunk alcohol in the past 12 months, compared to just 75 per cent of 16-17 year olds in growth areas.

•    Young people in inner Melbourne under the legal drinking age of 18 were more likely to have purchased alcohol themselves and to have consumed alcohol in a licensed premise during the past year, with 23 per cent of 16-17 year olds in inner Melbourne, compared to just 6 per cent in growth areas.

Researcher Dr Sarah MacLean said the study indicates that different alcohol policies are required across large cities such as Melbourne.  “Enforcement of provisions banning alcohol sales to minors is particularly needed in inner-Melbourne. In the growth areas, we need strategies to deal with different drinking patterns, for example interventions to ensure parties are safe and well managed, and we also need a cautious approach to liquor outlet density planning.”

She said strong consideration should be given to reducing binge drinking, with high levels in both inner and growth areas. “We need to look at restricting alcohol availability in both inner Melbourne and the growth areas.”

VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter said the research shows that many young peoples’ drinking habits may be formed at home, before graduating to pubs, clubs and bars. One in three minors had been given alcohol by a parent, which suggests parents play an important role in influencing the amount of alcohol their kids drink.

“Almost three-quarters of young people drink alcohol at levels that puts them at short term risk of injury, so more work needs to be done to reduce the widespread acceptability of drinking to excess,” she said.

“Wherever they live, young people need to know that getting drunk doesn’t have to be part and parcel with socialising. The reality is that today’s binge drinking teens are on track to become tomorrow’s heavy drinking 30-somethings, who then have a much higher chance of suffering from disease in middle age.

“However, if we can step in and influence that 17-year-old’s attitude to alcohol, then he or she might decide to scale it back. And the damage is undone. It also has the added effect of setting the standard for generations to come.”

Dr MacLean said an all-community approach is needed to tackle excessive drinking involving governments of all levels, health professionals, licensed premises, the alcohol industry, families, and young people themselves. The study suggests, however, that different policy responses to alcohol are required across large cities such as Melbourne: “Governments should take a lead by implementing policies to restrict alcohol availability and ensuring that recreation activities which are not focused on alcohol consumption are available to all young adults”. “

The paper Drinking patterns and attitudes for young people was published in the journal Urban Policy and Research.

About Turning Point Alcohol & Drug Centre
Turning Point (established 1995 and based in Fitzroy) provides leadership to the Victorian alcohol and drug sector. It promotes the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities living with, and affected by, alcohol, other drug-related harms and gambling.

About Eastern Health
Eastern Health is one of Victoria’s largest public health services. It provides a range of acute, sub-acute, mental health and community health services from 29 locations. Its larger facilities include: Angliss Hospital in Upper Ferntree Gully, Box Hill Hospital in Box Hill, Healesville & District Hospital in Healesville, Maroondah Hospital in Ringwood East, Peter James Centre in Burwood East, Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre in Fitzroy, Wantirna Health in Wantirna, Yarra Valley Community Health in Healesville and Yarra Ranges Health in Lilydale

About VicHealth
The Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth) is a pioneer in health promotion – the process of enabling people to increase control over and improve their health. Its primary focus is promoting good health and preventing chronic disease. VicHealth creates and funds world-class interventions, vital research and public campaigns to promote a healthier Victoria.