How much is too much? Alcohol consumption and related harm in the Northern Territory

Steven J Skov, Tanya N Chikritzhs, Shu Q Li, Sabine Pircher and Steven Whetton
Med J Aust 2010; 193 (5): 269-272.



Design, setting and participants: Descriptive study of alcohol consumption in the NT population, based on sales data and self-report surveys, and alcohol-attributable deaths and hospitalisations among people in the NT in the 2004–05 and 2005–06 financial years using population alcohol-attributable fractions specific to the NT.

Main outcome measures: Per capita consumption of pure alcohol, self-reported level of consumption, and age-standardised rates of death and hospitalisation attributable to alcohol.

Results: Apparent per capita consumption of pure alcohol for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal populations in the NT has been about 14 litres or more per year for many years, about 50% higher than for Australia as a whole. We estimated that there were 120 and 119 alcohol-attributable deaths in the NT in 2004–05 and 2005–06, respectively, at corresponding age-standardised rates of 7.2 and 7.8 per 10 000 adult population. Alcohol-attributable deaths occur in the NT at about 3.5 times the rate they do in Australia generally; rates in non-Aboriginal people were about double the national rate, while they were 9–10 times higher in Aboriginal people. There were 2319 and 2544 alcohol-attributable hospitalisations in the NT in 2004–05 and 2005–06, respectively, at corresponding rates of 146.6 and 157.7 per 10 000 population (more than twice the national rate).

Conclusion: In recent years, alcohol consumption and consequent alcohol-attributable deaths and hospitalisations for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in the NT have occurred at levels far higher than elsewhere in Australia.

  • Steven J Skov1
  • Tanya N Chikritzhs2
  • Shu Q Li3
  • Sabine Pircher3
  • Steven Whetton4

  • 1 Centre for Disease Control, Northern Territory Department of Health and Families, Darwin, NT.
  • 2 National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, WA.
  • 3 Health Gains Planning Branch, Northern Territory Department of Health and Families, Darwin, NT.
  • 4 South Australian Centre for Economic Studies, University of Adelaide and Flinders University, Adelaide, SA.



We are indebted to David Collins and Helen Lapsley for methodological advice and to Stephen Jackson and Joe Yick of the NT Department of Justice for providing alcohol sales data. Joanne Townsend, Chris Moon, Peter Markey and David Ashbridge provided helpful comments on drafts of this article.

Competing interests:

None identified.

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