Australian Alcohol Myths: Recent Trends and Innovative Responses

By July 16, 2018 No Comments

We spoke to lead researcher, Cath Chapman, about her work and how her featured symposium at TheMHS Conference will present data to challenge the commonly held myths around alcohol use to help identify potential solutions to these problems.

1. How did you first become involved in your field?

In 1994 I took a job for 12 months on a trial of intensive case management in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. I was fresh out of a psychology degree and I had no idea about what I would do or where I would end up – and a career in research was nowhere near the horizon!
But after doing research for a little while, I got more and more excited by it and by the possibility of what it can achieve. Twenty years later I still I get excited by research – by those lightbulb moments when you learn something truly new. Sharing that knowledge with people for whom it can make a difference is a big part of that, but even better are the moments when you see that knowledge change something for someone. When you get to be part of this on a big scale it is a privilege.

2. If people could know one point about your work what would you like them to know?
Mental and substance use disorders are two of the leading causes of burden of disease worldwide. We need to understand how and why this is happening and what we can do to change this. My work focuses on mapping and understanding large-scale population change and using this knowledge to bridge the gap between epidemiology and prevention and early intervention of mental and substance use disorders …which is a long-winded way of saying I think a lot about what questions to ask – and how the answers might make a difference. Working out what questions to ask is as important as working out how to answer them!

3. What’s one thing not many people know about you?

I’ve never seen Star Wars. I know. It’s not really ok. In some circles it’s considered completely unacceptable. In my defence, I somehow missed it in the 70’s and then the longer my lack of exposure went on the harder it seemed to find a way back…..

4. Why are you looking forward to coming to Adelaide?

I’m mainly coming for TheMHS conference – I attended my first one in Melbourne in 1994 and I’ve rarely missed one since. I’m also looking forward to the food… I love food and people in Adelaide know how to grow and cook beautiful food!

5. Where can people find out more about your work?

Come to TheMHS Conference Adelaide!

S16: PAPERS: Responding to Drug & Alcohol Problems
Wednesday, August 29, 2018, 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM, Hall B
Focus Testing of the Positive Choices Drug and Alcohol Prevention Online Portal: End-user evaluation and impact of the portal.

S79: FEATURED SYMPOSIUM: Alcohol Myths, Recent Trends
Friday, August 31, 2018, 1:30 PM – 3:00 PM, Hall C
Featured Symposium: Australian Alcohol Myths: Recent Trends and Innovative Responses.

Facebook @MentalHealthandSubstanceUse
Twitter @CREComorbidity

Featured Symposium: Australian Alcohol Myths: Recent Trends and Innovative Responses

There are several myths around alcohol use, but what does the recent data say?

Myth 1: Young people are drinking more than ever before
Myth 2: Alcohol is a problem for men but not for women
Myth 3: Anxiety protects young people from drinking too much
Myth 4: Letting teenagers drink at home protects them from alcohol related harms

Australia has some of the highest rates of alcohol use disorders in the world. However, the last decade has seen some compelling shifts in patterns of alcohol use and related harms in Australia. Data from the 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey indicates that fewer young people are choosing to drink, and those who do are starting to drink later. However, we are not necessarily seeing the same downward shifts across the whole population, or in all alcohol-related harms. There is some evidence that women are catching up to men in terms of alcohol use and related harms, and rates of risky drinking remain high among men and women in their 40’s, 50’s and. Alongside these trends, the latest data on the mental health of young Australians indicates that rates of anxiety and depression are high and associated with increased risk of alcohol use.

This symposium will present recent Australian and International data to challenge commonly held myths around alcohol use and will discuss innovative solutions to address these problems. The first presentation will give a brief overview of the latest Australian data on alcohol, young people and mental health. It will pose a number of key questions: Why is it that young people are drinking less and drinking later, and yet rates of anxiety, depression and self-harm remain high? Are women catching up to men in terms of alcohol use and alcohol related harms? If young people with anxiety are at risk of developing problems with alcohol, what can we do to help? And finally, what role to parents play? Should we be teaching our teenagers to “drink responsibly”?

Presentations 2-4 will explore these issues further and present three empirical studies that are attempting to find innovative solutions to these questions. Presentation 2 will look at women and alcohol use and present data from the Australian Why Women Drink Study which aims to better understand patterns of, and reasons for, drinking among women to inform prevention and early intervention programs for females. Presentation 3 will present data from an innovative online program to address alcohol use and anxiety among young adults and Presentation 4 will give an overview of a new online school-based program which aims to prevent adolescent alcohol use and related hams by intervening among both teenagers and their parents.

Presentation 1: Population trends in alcohol use and mental health: an update and overview
Presentation 2: Alcohol: the gender gap you don’t want to close. Data from the Why Women Drink Study
Presentation 3: The Inroads program: An innovative online intervention for young people who drink to cope with anxiety.
Presentation 4: Climate Schools Plus (CSP): An interactive online intervention for students and their parents to prevent alcohol and cannabis related harms among adolescents

PREMISE (Prevention and Early intervention in Mental Illness and Substance use) is a newly funded NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence which aims to provide a world-first synergy of the leading prevention and early intervention research and translation programs in substance use and mental disorders across five Australian universities. It brings researchers currently working independently across disorder silos (addiction, depression, suicide, anxiety, psychosis) together to share skills, synergise data, and harness new technologies to develop and trial innovative prevention and early intervention programs for substance use and mental disorders. The work presented in this symposium is being conducted as part of this newly funded Centre.

Dr Cath Chapman is Program Director of the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Mental Health and Substance Use, and Senior Lecturer at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre. She has worked in epidemiology and mental health services research for a number of years. She currently works closely with both the epidemiology and prevention teams at CREMS. Cath has also been a member of TheMHS Management Committee since 2000.