BENDIGO health professionals are warning people to lay off the booze this Australia Day.A new VicHealth study, Drinking Cultures and Social Occasions – Public Holidays, shows outdoor summer events associated with drinking lead to more violence, drunkenness and traffic accidents.VicHealth’s alcohol programs manager Brian Vandenbeg said the saturation of alcohol outlets and cheap liquor prices encouraged a boozy Australia Day.“Binge drinking is unfortunately an embedded part of our culture and the way we celebrate,” he said.“But it’s time for a change and Australians need to take time to reflect on the way they drink.”Bendigo surgeon and men’s health advocate Stephen Lindsay said many young men viewed Australia Day as a “binge holiday”.“The combination of heat, alcohol, testosterone and holiday celebrations make it a dangerous time on our lakes, rivers and roads. Enjoy yourself by all means, but do it in moderation and do it responsibly.”The VicHealth study analysed ambulance data, hospital admissions, emergency department calls, car crashes and police data on assaults between 2000 and 2009.“In terms of the research, the reason we’re launching it around the time of Australia Day is because it’s the worst day of the year for assaults and drunkenness involving young people,” Mr Vandenbeg said.“Often police and our emergency services workers are spending our national holiday picking up the pieces.”Cheryl Sobczyk, Bendigo Bendigo Community Health Services general manager of primary health and integrated care, said public holidays in the summer were problematic.“You have the combination of hot weather and the use of alcohol drunk in excess to quench the thirst rather than also drink other fluids,” she said. “It is common for people to party or go out the night before a public holiday with the celebrations continuing on the day. “This increases the likelihood of alcohol-fuelled violence, drunkenness and traffic accidents.” Ms Sobczyk said Bendigo Community Health Services offered treatment, support and education programs.“Bendigo Community Health Services has offered alcohol and other drug programs since its inception in the ’70s,” she said.“We offer an adult residential withdrawal service called Nova House which is a 24-hour residential service. “The most significant substance, right across the service, is alcohol.”
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