Boredom behind binge drinking in regional areas

BOREDOM and a lack of social venues without alcohol are two key issues creating a booze-linked culture in regional and rural areas of the country, a top rural doctor said on Thursday.

Dr Ian Kamerman, president of the Rural Doctors Association of Australia, said younger people at risk of binge drinking in regional areas had few other options.

While the effects of alcohol-related assaults "one-punch" deaths has saturated media in the metropolitan cities, Dr Kamerman said alcohol was just as big an issue in regional Australia.

He said emergency departments, local doctors and clinics were also facing the effects of alcohol in regional communities every day.

"Fights in pubs, driving while drunk, people being assaulted after getting intoxicated, sexual assaults, underage drinking - it's all a significant problem in the bush," he said.

"I think one of the chief problems, especially in smaller rural and regional towns, is boredom - often there's just a lack of activities to do that don't involve alcohol."

Dr Kamerman said a key issue for communities to consider was providing alternatives to drinking.

"It's the lack of alternative venues in rural areas - in many towns the social life revolves around a culture of alcohol and drinking.

"Certainly, in some of the towns I've worked in, you have a common situation where junior sporting teams are celebrating with the seniors, and the seniors are all on the grog.

"You've got kids being brought up with that, and I'm not trying to be prudish or anything, that's what life's like in the bush."

Dr Kamerman said there was a "learnt association" that young people could only have a good time with a drink, and initiatives should focus educating people about alcohol, and providing alternatives.

His comments come as the Australian Medical Association called for a national summit to tackle alcohol abuse around the country.

AMA president Dr Steve Hambleton said the problem required a national solution that included harm minimisation, education, alcohol marketing measures and pricing and taxes on alcohol.

"Young Australians are exposed to an unprecedented level of alcohol marketing and promotions, and there is strong evidence that the more young people are exposed to alcohol advertising, the earlier they start drinking, the more they drink, and the more alcohol-related harm they experience," he said.

While the Abbott Government has not yet officially responded to the call, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has indicated in recent weeks such an idea could be considered.

He entered the largely state-based debate two weeks ago, saying the federal government would do its part to tackle alcohol abuse.

The Greens have also called for a Senate inquiry into alcohol, including marketing to young people and pricing issues, which Dr Hambleton backed on Thursday.

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