Smoking and drinking rates higher in regional and remote Australia

NOTE: The information in this media release is for a time period before the 2019-20 summer bushfires and the COVID–19 pandemic.

The further Australians live from major cities, the more likely they are to smoke daily and drink alcohol at risky levels, according to results from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019 released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The survey found that use of illicit drugs in the previous 12 months was similar amongst Australians living in major cities and those in regional and remote areas.

Results of the three-yearly survey of more than 22,000 people aged 14 years and over from across Australia include information for local regions and for Primary Health Network areas.

‘Although tobacco use has declined across Australia since 2010, smoking remains more common in regional areas than in cities. This is concerning because tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable illness and death in Australia,’ said AIHW spokesperson Dr. Gabrielle Phillips.

‘Between 2010 and 2019, the proportion of people smoking daily fell from 13.7% to 9.7% in major cities, from 17.4% to 13.4% in inner regional areas and from 26% to 19.6% in remote and very remote areas.

In 2019, the proportion of people who drank in excess of alcohol lifetime risk guidelines was 15.6% in major cities, 18.2% in inner regional areas, 22% in outer regional areas and 25% in remote and very remote areas.

The proportion of people who reported recently using an illicit drug was 16.7% in major cities, 14.9% in inner regional areas, 16.3% in outer regional areas and 18.8% in remote and very remote areas.

The highest socioeconomic areas in Australia are located in major cities and the lowest socioeconomic areas are in regional and remote areas.

After adjusting for age, levels of use of any illicit drug in the last 12 months were similar in the highest socioeconomic areas and the lowest (18.4% compared with 17.8%), but the type of drug used varied.

People living in the highest socioeconomic areas were more likely to have recently used ecstasy (4.8% compared with 2.1%) and cocaine (7.1% compared with 2.6%) but they were less likely to use pain-killers and opioids for non-medical purposes (1.8% compared with 3.0%) than people living in the lowest socioeconomic areas.

 ‘Australians living in regional and remote areas often have poorer health outcomes than people living in big cities,’ Dr. Phillips said.

‘Understanding patterns of tobacco, alcohol and other drug use in regional areas can help inform effective policy development and ensure that efforts will benefit those most at risk of harm, marginalisation and disadvantage.’

Media enquiries: [email protected]

 For reference: When reporting on drug and alcohol issues, journalists may wish to consult the Mindframe guidelines on ‘Communicating about alcohol and other drugs’.

To access free and confidential advice about alcohol and other drugs, phone the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline - 1800 250 015


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