Insights into regional drinking patterns

La Trobe University research has shed light on the factors influencing alcohol consumption by Generation X and Baby Boomers in regional and rural Victoria.

La Trobe’s Centre for Alcohol Policy Research in Melbourne joined forces with VicHealth to look at alcohol cultures in middle and older-age groups (36-70 years old), with a specific focus on drinking in licensed venues.

Lead researcher Claire Wilkinson said many study participants identified that drinking at home was more common and concerning to them than drinking at a local venue.

“Both the lack of public transport and limited licensed venues were felt to curb drinking levels within licensed venues in regional and rural areas,” Ms Wilkinson said.

“Several participants saw drinking at the pub or at home as one of the very few options for socialising, simply because of the lack of other cultural activities on offer.”

Other key insights raised from the study include:

  • Interviewees identified that drinking in private homes and the take-away style drinking culture were more common and more concerning to them than drinking in regional and rural licensed venues
  • Several interviewees described a masculine drinking culture (fitting in with ‘the boys’) in rural settings as contributing to heavy drinking
  • Drink-driving is unacceptable and a well-respected reason for choosing not to drink
  • Many interviewees said they didn’t feel pressured if they chose not to drink in social setting

“From this sample alone we can already consider a number of interventions. For example, perhaps we can investigate more cultural events that don’t involve drinking in rural locations. Or could we perhaps explore strategies that target changing social norms around packaged liquor, drinking on your own, and in private settings,” Ms Wilkinson said.

The study will help inform and shape projects funded under VicHealth’s Alcohol Culture Change Initiative: open funding round that seek to improve risky drinking cultures in rural and regional Victoria.

VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter said reducing the social acceptability of risky drinking is key to changing the drinking culture in Victoria and Australia.

“We know that one-size doesn’t fit all – Victoria is a diverse state with many drinking cultures. That’s why we’re looking to fund new projects tackling risky drinking cultures within sports bars, the construction industry, and regional and rural areas,” Ms Rechter said.

“Our vision is to see people socially supporting one another to reduce high risk drinking, resulting in reduced harm for themselves, their family and friends, those in the vicinity and the broader community.  We want people to feel as though they don’t have to get drunk in order to have a good time.”