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Rural And Remote Australians Are Drinking Daily And At Risky Levels

People living in areas outside of major cities are more likely to drink alcohol daily and at risky levels.

A new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, released on Friday, compiled data on alcohol and other drug use across regional and metropolitan Australia between 2016 and 2017.

It found eight percent of those living in regional and remote areas were drinking alcohol daily, compared to five percent in major cities.

A significantly higher percentage of those in regional and remote areas consumed levels that placed them at harm from alcohol-related disease or injury (21 percent, compared with 15 percent).

READ MORE: Aussies Knock Back Almost Double World Average Alcohol Amount

This increased with remoteness, with the highest proportion of people exceeding the National Medical Health and Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines for lifetime risk -- more than two standard drinks per day -- found to be living in remote and very remote areas of Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

The factors behind this are complex and include lower education levels and higher levels of under or unemployment, the AIHW stated.

Those in rural Australia also associate drinking with values such as 'self-reliance', 'hardiness' and 'mateship', according to the National Rural Health Alliance, with social isolation -- including having a limited range of recreational venues -- also a contributing factor.

The report found that while levels of drug use were similar across major cities and in regional or remote areas -- about 16 percent -- the type of drugs taken varied, with ecstasy and cocaine more common in the cities.

The highest proportion of recent illicit drug users were in remote WA, with the lowest in outer regional NSW.

READ MORE: Australia Has A Cocaine and Meth Problem, U.N. Says As Drug Deaths Spike 

READ MORE: Australians Consumed Four Tonnes Of Cocaine In A Year 

The burden of drug and alcohol use also increases with remoteness, where people tend to die prematurely, or have higher levels of disease or injury.

"For people in remote and very remote areas, the burden of disease due to alcohol was 2.1 and 2.7 times higher, respectively, that for those in major cities," AIHW spokeswoman Moira Hewitt said.

The report also found a higher rate of people seeking treatment outside of major cities, but access to services remains difficult. People travelled over one hour to receive treatment in 28 percent of episodes provided outside major cities.

The government identified the enhancement of "access to evidence-informed, effective and affordable treatment and support services" for the whole population under the 2017-2026 National Drug Strategy, recognising Indigenous Australians as a priority who are suffering harm from alcohol and drug use.

Contact the author ebrancatisano@networkten.com.au