Date Published: 21 December 2011

Sportsmen and alcohol-related violence in Australia

Health News from Australia.

Recent research has found high rates of alcohol-related aggression and antisocial behaviour involving young Australian athletes compared with their non-sporting peers. The study considered the extent to which Australian sportspeople are prone to alcohol-related violence.

Health scientists from Monash University, the University of Western Sydney and colleagues elsewhere surveyed more than 1000 young people as part of this study. After accounting for factors such as age, gender, living location, and hazardous drinking levels, they found that, when intoxicated, sportspeople were more likely to have displayed physical or verbal aggression, and damaged property than non-sportspeople.

Intoxicated male sportspeople accounted for most of the results, being twice as likely to have damaged property. Rates of intoxicated assault were 50% higher in male sportspeople (sportsmen) than in females (sportswomen) and non-sportspeople.

Lead researcher Dr Kerry O'Brien of Monash University's School of Political and Social Inquiry said the study was the first of its kind in Australia.

" We were aware of US collegiate studies showing that rates of violence and antisocial behaviour were greater in athletes. However, we were surprised to find that there had been no similar empirical research outside of the US, and felt this preliminary work needed to be done in Australia to provide a starting point," Dr O'Brien said.

These results come at a time when the Australian National Preventive Health Agency is considering the possibility of replacing all alcohol industry sponsorship of sport in an attempt to reduce drinking-related problems in sport and the possible influence of alcohol advertising and sponsorship in sport on young people's attitudes to alcohol.

Consistent with other work in Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America (USA), rates of hazardous drinking were significantly higher in sportspeople. Overall statistics indicate figures as high as approx 60% in sportspeople, but 65% in male sportspeople, compared with 55% in non-sportspeople.

" It's already fairly well established that drinking is problematic in sporting populations, which makes sense given the amount of alcohol advertising and sponsorship that is focused there. But there is virtually no research outside US university athletes on associated physical and social harms," Dr O'Brien said.
"It's time a much more focused look is taken at the whole sport and alcohol mix in Australia, and particularly the social, cultural, and health costs."

This research has been published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport.

Source: Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.

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