Time to cut back?

24 July 2018
Bridget Kool photo edited 400 266
Associate Professor Bridget Kool

The research proves it – the kiwi drinking culture leads directly to the emergency department.

New Zealand has ranked 2nd out of 28 countries for the proportion of injury cases presenting to emergency departments who had consumed alcohol in the preceding six hours, a result experts are linking to our binge drinking culture and easy access to cheap booze.

A recent study, by the International Collaborative Alcohol and Injury Study (ICAIS) group found that countries with stricter alcohol policies had lower rates of alcohol-related injuries, regardless of individual consumption rates and drinking patterns, and country-level drinking patterns. The study has recently been published in Addiction.

Data from 62 emergency departments in 28 countries covering five regions including over 14,000 injured patients was studied. Interviews were conducted with patients within six hours of injury and included questions about their alcohol consumption and if they associated their drinking with the injury.

Dr Bridget Kool of the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, led the 2015/16 New Zealand arm of the study in conjunction with Dr Sarah Buller from Auckland City Hospital.

New Zealand was ranked 2nd out of 28 countries for the proportion of people who presented to hospital with an injury and who were current drinkers (91 per cent average across the two NZ studies) compared to only 26 per cent of people in the lowest ranked country, India. However, encouragingly the proportion of people in the two New Zealand studies who had consumed alcohol in the six hours preceding their injuries had reduced from 45 per cent in the 2000 study to 25 per cent in the 2015/16 study.

To assess the effect of country-level alcohol policies, the researchers used the International Alcohol Policy and Injury Index (IAPII), which includes policies related to the physical availability of alcohol, vehicle use limitations, advertising and promotional restrictions, and drinking environment, such as host and server laws. The IAPII was developed to measure the impact of several alcohol-related policies on injury rates within an international context and is one of the only measures that includes policy enforcement.

Dr Kool says New Zealand’s IAPII score of 78/100 shows we need to reduce our access to alcohol and alcohol consumption.

“There are considerable gains to be made if we can strengthen our alcohol policy to ensure we don’t lag behind the rest of the world in reducing the burden of injury from alcohol in this country.”

“The findings of this study have reinforced the positive impact that effective alcohol policy can have on alcohol-related harm.”

The findings revealed that of the 28 countries, Sweden had the most restrictive alcohol policy (IAPII score = 91/100) and one of the lowest rates of alcohol involvement in injury admissions (around 15 per cent). In contrast, Tanzania had the least restrictive alcohol policy (IAPII score = 21/100) and not surprisingly 51 per cent of injury presentations had consumed alcohol in the previous six hours.

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