Science Editor, Sydney Morning Herald
Between 2005 and 2012 the number of women who arrived at hospital with these kind of injuries increased by 44 per cent compared to 30 percent for men.
The sharpest rise in these presentations was in girls aged 15 to 19, which increased by more than 60 per cent from 4.6 per 1000 presentations to 7.5 per 1000.
Research leader Tanya Chikritzhs said it was likely that several factors were driving this trend, but there seemed to be a shift in the drinking culture of young women.
“Once upon a time it was frowned upon for young ladies to drink too much in public, now the girls do their best to keep up with the boys.”
Young women also have higher disposable incomes that they have in the past, as well as being targeted by advertisers and marketing, said Professor Chikritzhs from the National Drug Research Institute at Curtin University.
“Surveys of teenage drinking [shows] young girls are starting earlier and drinking at higher levels than before,” she said.
The emergency department data, obtained from all states and territories except Tasmania, shows the alcohol injury rate in NSW increased faster than the national average.
Across the country males aged 15 to 29 still represent the highest proportion of people arriving at hospital for alcohol-related injuries.
The National Alcohol Indicators Project is the first to analyse emergency department presentations rather than hospital admissions. Emergency department data tends to capture less serious but more frequent alcohol-related injuries, such as minor fractures from falls and assaults.
“That’s where most of the young people end up,” said Professor Chikritzhs.
The study examined emergency arrivals on Friday and Saturday between 10pm and 4am and Sunday nights. It included injuries from people who had hurt themselves or who were the victim of someone else who had been drinking.
“A lot of these people are here as collateral damage from other people’s drinking,” she said.
Alcohol-related emergency presentations totally eclipse the number of presentations for all illicit drugs combined.
Professor Chikritzhs said these trends would likely continue without a concerted effort to enforce good quality evidence-based alcohol policy.
She said if governments were serious about reducing alcohol-related harm they would reduce trading hours of licensed venues such as pubs, bars, clubs and bottle shops.
“Having 24-hour licensed [venues] is not a great way to reduce alcohol-related problems,” she said.
Another major initiative would be to introduce a minimum price for alcohol, she said.