Alcohol killed 1145 Indigenous Australians in the period between 2000 and 2004, or one every 38 hours – and the average age of death was 35, according to the National Drug Research Institute (NDRI), Perth.
These figures come from the National Alcohol Indicators Project (NAIP) Bulletin 11, Trends in alcohol-attributable deaths among Indigenous Australians, 1998-2004, released by the NDRI in February. The report also estimates that a cause of almost half these deaths was alcoholic liver cirrhosis or suicide.
But the figures should be seen as conservative – and show that Australia has a long way to go to address health inequality between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, according to Professor Dennis Gray, Indigenous Australian Research Team Leader at NDRI.
‘If we are serious about addressing this disparity and reducing death rates among Indigenous Australians, we need to focus on the underlying social causes of that ill health,’ he said, adding that the high rate of alcohol-related suicide among Indigenous men reflected the despair that many Indigenous people feel.
Researchers from NDRI say the trends and numbers of these deaths vary widely from state to state and from region to region within each state, with the highest death rates occurring in Queensland and the Northern Territory. Targeted region-specific approaches are needed to improve Indigenous health.
‘This kind of information is important in planning our response to Indigenous health issues and in showing where resources should be directed for the maximum benefit,’ says Dr Tanya Chikritzhs, co-author of the bulletin and NDRI Senior Research Fellow.
From; Of Substance, The Australian National Magazine On Alcohol, Tobacco And Other Drugs. vol. 5 no. 2 2007. Subscription forms and back issues of ‘Of Substance’ (in PDF format) are available at Ofsubstance.org.au.