Alcohol misuse represents one of the leading causes of preventable death, illness and injury in Australia. Extensive research exists estimating the effect of risky alcohol use on mortality, but little research quantifies the impact of risky alcohol consumption on morbidity. Such estimates are required to more precisely measure the benefit of interventions aimed at reducing risky alcohol use. Ordered probit and tobit models are used in this research to analyse the impact of risky drinking on self-reported health status using questionnaire data from an age and gender stratified sample drawn from 20 rural communities in New South Wales which are part of a large randomised controlled trial of community based alcohol interventions. It is found that risky alcohol use is associated with lower self-reported health; however, the average effect is small apart for those drinking at very-high risk. The effect of alcohol on morbidity, derived from the current analyses, is lower than that commonly used in current economics analyses. If this is accurate for geographical regions other than rural Australia, then from a policy viewpoint, these economic analyses may tend to overemphasise interventions which are morbidity reducing, such as taxation, and place undue focus on alcohol as a risk factor and consequently adversely impact resource allocation decisions.
Social Science and Medicine Vol. 67, Issue 11, p. 1717-1726