People from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds

Key findings

  • Analysis of available data indicates that people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds are less likely to consume alcohol and other drugs compared with people whose primary language spoken at home is English.
  • People from CALD backgrounds (83%) are more likely to report never smoking, compared with those whose primary language spoken at home is English (60%).
  • People from CALD backgrounds are more likely than those whose primary language spoken at home is English to abstain from alcohol consumption (49% compared to 18.9%) and illicit drug use (54% compared to 82%).
  • The non-medical use of pharmaceuticals is the most commonly used drug among people from CALD backgrounds (3.4%).
  • There is currently limited data available on alcohol and other drug use in the CALD population in Australia.

More information is available in the Culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds factsheet.

Australia has a large culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) population. As of June 2016, 26% of Australia’s population were born overseas and this has been increasing over the past 10 years (ABS 2017).In 2016, there were over 300 separately identified languages spoken in Australian homes and 21% of Australians spoke a language other than English (ABS 2017). For the purposes of this report, people from CALD backgrounds refers to people whose main language spoken at home is not English (for more information refer to Box CALD1).  

Some people from CALD backgrounds are more vulnerable to alcohol and other drug use due to a history of torture, trauma, grief and loss. This can also be exacerbated by family stressors, unemployment, language barriers, lack of awareness of culturally appropriate services available (DoH 2017).

Box CALD1: Alcohol and other drug data in CALD populations

There is a lack of publicly available and comprehensive data examining the use of alcohol and other drugs by people from CALD backgrounds. The AIHW’s National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) is one of the only national data sources that specifically disaggregates alcohol and other drug use by main language spoken at home. CALD data from the NDSHS refers to persons who indicated that English was not the main language spoken at home.

The Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services (AODTS) National Minimum Dataset also collects CALD data, however this is based on information on clients country of birth, instead of main language spoken at home. Most (87%) of treatment episodes were provided to clients who were born in Australia.

Data from the NDSHS indicates that people from CALD backgrounds are less likely to consume alcohol and other drugs compared with those whose main language spoken at home is English (AIHW 2017).

Tobacco smoking

While there has been a statistically significant increase between 2013 and 2016 in the proportion of people across Australia reporting never smoking, the proportion of 'never smokers' is greater for people from CALD backgrounds (83%) compared with primary English speakers (60%) (Table S3.53).

Between 2013 and 2016 there was a significant reduction in the proportion of people from CALD backgrounds reporting daily smoking from 11.3% to 5.9%, while those from English speaking backgrounds remained stable at 12.8% (Figure CALD1).

Of current smokers, people from CALD backgrounds smoked on average a fewer number of cigarettes per week compared with primary English speakers (66.4 compared to 95.4). There has also been a statistically significant reduction in the mean number of cigarettes smoked by people from CALD backgrounds (Table S3.53).

Alcohol consumption

Similar to smoking, data from the NDSHS shows that people from CALD backgrounds (49%) were more likely to be 'abstainers/ex-drinkers' compared with primary English speakers (18.9%) (Table S3.53).

A much greater proportion of primary English speakers (18.6%) reported exceeding the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines for lifetime risk by consuming on average more than two standards drinks per day, compared with people from CALD backgrounds (5.4%). However, there was a significant reduction Australia-wide in the proportion of people exceeding lifetime risk guidelines between 2013 and 2016 (Figure CALD2). 

In 2016, 10.3% of people from CALD backgrounds compared with 28% of primary English speakers reported exceeding the NHMRC guidelines for single occasion risk by consuming on average more than 4 standards drink on one occasion and doing so, at least monthly. Further, between 2013 and 2016 there was a significant reduction in people from CALD backgrounds exceeding single occasions guidelines, while the proportion for English speaking backgrounds remained stable (Table S3.53).

Illicit drug use

In 2016, a much smaller proportion of people from CALD backgrounds reported that they had ever used an illicit drug compared with those from English speaking backgrounds (17.7% compared with 46%). Further, there was a significant increase in people abstaining from illicit drug use between 2013 and 2016, while abstainers from English speaking backgrounds decreased over the same period.

The non-medical use of pharmaceuticals in the prior 12 months was reported by 3.4% of people from CALD backgrounds, the most commonly used drug by this population in 2016.

The second most commonly used drug in 2016 was cannabis at 3.3%, however there was a significant reduction from 5.4% in 2013 among people from CALD backgrounds (Figure CALD3).

After adjusting for differences in age, people from CALD backgrounds were still far less likely to consume tobacco, alcohol and other drugs than those whose primary language spoken at home was English (AIHW 2017) (Table S3.54).

Health and harms

Treatment

The Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services National Minimum Dataset (AODTS-NMDS) reported that in 2017–18, the majority of closed treatment episodes were for clients born in Australia (86%) (Table S3.55).  

Clients receiving treatment that were born in countries other than Australia represented only a small proportion of all clients in 2017–18, with New Zealand (2.3%) and the United Kingdom (2.5%) being the next most common countries of birth (Table S3.55). Comparatively, in 2014–15, 5% of the Australian population were born in the United Kingdom and 2.5% in New Zealand (ABS 2017). English was the most frequently reported preferred language among clients receiving specialist alcohol and drug treatment (96% of treatment episodes) (Table S3.56).

References

ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2017. Census of Population and Housing: Reflecting Australia—Stories from the Census, 2016. ABS cat. no. 2071.0. Canberra: ABS. Viewed 9 May 2018.

AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2017. National drug strategy household survey 2016: detailed findings. Drug statistics series no. 31. Cat. no. PHE 214. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 14 December 2017.

DoH (Department of Health) 2017. National Drug Strategy 2017–2026. Canberra: DoH. Viewed 12 January 2018.