Country where 54 percent of adults drink alcohol once a week may run out of liquor for Christmas

Australian researchers find lack of alcohol supply for party gone wild less of a problem than in the UK or US

Country where 54 percent of adults drink alcohol once a week may run out of liquor for Christmas

A light bout of binge drinking at Christmas tends to have a “negative” effect on health, with Australian researchers finding that withdrawal from booze can have a negative effect on health even at a relative low-level.

British and US researchers have linked too much alcohol to a number of illnesses, including drink-related assaults, cancer and mental health issues, but for most people in those countries, the effects are relatively mild.

But experts from Australia’s Menzies School of Health Research in Tasmania said anecdotally they had seen that over the Christmas season in Tasmania, where 54 percent of adults drank alcohol once a week, even just for one night the effects were so severe it would require trying to find a different liquor to purchase.

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“Lots of people indicated the difficulty of finding something in the local store and not being able to find something to buy,” said Professor Lindsay Ellis, the study’s lead author.

“For example, some adults at the ‘tiredness shop’ stated they tried to find something to buy alcohol, but were not successful. Others stated the lack of alcohol at a Christmas party became a problem, as they needed to drink a full bottle to pass out properly.”

Tasmania’s Ballu or Ulverstone shops are both known for stocking liquor in large quantities.

Ellis and colleagues sought to find out the impacts of the UK and US similar Christmas market experiences on Tasmanian folk.

They surveyed 658 non-drinkers between April and December 2014, asking them to rate the health impact of a one-drink-a-day holiday binge, and also the binge of two days or more.

The Tasmanian drinkers also reported the binge parties as a high, and possibly a problem, experience, and rated the impacts of alcohol withdrawal on that holiday negatively.

Despite that effect, experts say the concerns about Tasmania’s alcohol supply are overstated.

A 2015 review by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found just 6.2 percent of all Australian adults reported heavy drinking or binge drinking – defined as consuming four drinks or more on one occasion – in the 12 months to March 2015.

If this rate held up in 2018, Tasmania would have been “close to the world average for heavy alcohol consumption,” said the review.

However, experts point out that, given the sheer number of Tasmanians that drink alcohol, any effect that has on health over Christmas could be significant.

“These findings underscore the impacts of alcohol misuse, and this was a concern,” Ellis said.

“It may be a good thing that alcohol supply may not be available all year round, so we might just have to learn to cope with year-round booze tolerance.”

• This article was amended on 14 January to correct data from the Tasmanian shop Ballu.

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