Objective: To examine the extent to which individual- and community- level characteristics account for differences in risky alcohol consumption.
Method: A cross-sectional postal survey of 2,977 randomly selected individuals from 20 regional communities in NSW, Australia. Individuals drinking at harmful levels on the AUDIT and for risk of harm in the short term and long-term were identified. Multi-level modelling of the correlates of risky alcohol consumption at the individual and community level was conducted.
Results: There were differences between communities in alcohol consumption patterns. Being male, unmarried and reporting worse health were significant individual-level correlates for drinking at levels for risk of harm in the long term. The number of GPs (+) and police (-) were significant community characteristics. Being younger (≤25), unmarried, Australian born and with a larger income was associated with drinking at levels for risk of harm in the short term and harmful drinking on the AUDIT. The number of hotels and clubs was positively associated with drinking at levels for risk of harm in the short term.
Conclusions: Rates of risky drinking vary significantly between communities and both individual and community characteristics are significantly associated with risky alcohol consumption.
Implications: A combination of individual- and population-level interventions, tailored to the risk profile of individual communities, is most likely to be optimally effective.