Trends in alcohol-attributable hospitalisation in the Northern Territory, 1998–99 to 2008–09

Shu Qin Li, Sabine L M Pircher and Steven L Guthridge
Med J Aust 2012; 197 (6): 341-344. || doi: 10.5694/mja11.11487


Objective: To examine trends in hospitalisation for alcohol-attributable conditions in the Northern Territory Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal populations between the financial years 1998–99 and 2008–09.

Design and setting: Retrospective descriptive analysis of inpatient discharge data from NT public hospitals.

Main outcome measures: Alcohol-attributable hospitalisation by age, sex, Aboriginality, region of residence and medical conditions, with annual time trends.

Results: Annual rates of hospitalisation for alcohol-attributable conditions across the NT increased from 291.3 per 10 000 population to 460.0 per 10 000 (57.9%) among Aboriginal males and from 181.8 per 10 000 to 387.4 per 10 000 (113.1%) among Aboriginal females over the study period. The alcohol-attributable hospitalisation rate also increased from 58.8 per 10 000 population to 87.4 per 10 000 (48.6%) among non-Aboriginal males and from 16.8 per 10 000 to 37.2 per 10 000 (121.4%) among non-Aboriginal females. Alcohol-attributable hospitalisation rates among Aboriginal people living in Central Australia were much higher than in the Top End. In Central Australia, the rates for Aboriginal females increased throughout the study period, but for Aboriginal males declined from 2004–05 onwards.

Conclusion: Rates of hospitalisation for alcohol-attributable conditions were high among NT Aboriginal people and increased during the study period. Although not statistically significant, the moderation in rates among Central Australian Aboriginal males after 2004–05 is encouraging. This apparent improvement is consistent with another recent study and provides tentative support that recent policy changes and interventions may be having an impact. The results of this study highlight the burden of alcohol use in the NT and emphasise the need for ongoing investment in comprehensive alcohol-management programs.

  • Shu Qin Li1
  • Sabine L M Pircher2
  • Steven L Guthridge3

  • Health Gains Planning, Northern Territory Department of Health, Darwin, NT.



We thank Jo Wright and Steven Skov for their valuable comments on this article.

Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.

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