Australian manual or “blue collar” workers are dying from liver cirrhosis 2.5 times the rate of their “white collar” counterparts, according to a University of Queensland study.
School of Population Health Professors Jake Najman and Gail Williams and Stockholm University’s Professor Robin Room examined death rates among Australian men from liver cirrhosis between 1981 and 2002.
Their results were published in the May 2007 edition of the prestigious journal, Drug and Alcohol Review.
The men were categorised according to whether they were manual or non-manual workers. Manual worker status is a marker for lower socio-economic status (SES).
Heavy or binge drinking is one of the main contributors to the development of liver cirrhosis.
Professor Najman said the study results suggested that men from lower socio-economic backgrounds were in greater danger of liver cirrhosis because of their heavy and binge drinking.
Liver cirrhosis accounted for 3.3 percent of all deaths among men aged between 15 and 64 in Australia in 2002 (543) and is the 10th largest overall killer of men.
Cirrhosis is believed to develop in about 15 percent of people who drink heavily for more than a decade – three to four drinks a day for men and two to three drinks a day for women.
“Lower socio-economic groups appear to have increased their harmful alcohol consumption relative to middle and higher SES groups. This may be due to the increased affordability and availability of alcohol,” Professor Najman said.
“In Australia, alcohol has become relatively cheaper and more available.
“It is already known that socio-economic inequalities in alcohol-related diseases are among the largest of any cause of death. For example, in Britain, between 1991 and 1993, liver cirrhosis rates among unskilled workers were about four times those experienced by professionals.
“The very low tax on wine means cask wine is often the beverage of choice for the poorest and most marginalised people.”
The study’s findings dovetail with another paper recently published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organisation by Professor Najman and co-authors, Dr Ghasem Toloo and Dr Victor Siskind, urging the need for more healthy-living programs targeted at the socioeconomically disadvantaged.
Professor Najman said reducing tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption among the most socioeconomically disadvantaged should be an urgent national priority.
Media inquiries: Professor Najman (0411 043 490, 07 3365 5180), Professor Williams (07 3365 5406), or Shirley Glaister at UQ Communications (07 3365 1931).