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Compared with the general population or their more advantaged counterparts, many groups have large disparities in tobacco, alcohol and other drug use or at risk of drug-related harm. These include:

Indigenous Australians

were 2.5 times as likely to smoke tobacco daily and 1.6 times as likely to have recently used illicit drugs as non-Indigenous Australians in 2013.

People living in low socioeconomic areas

reported higher rates of daily smoking, risky drinking and use of some illicit drugs than those living in high socioeconomic areas.

People living in Remote and Very remote areas

were twice as likely to smoke daily or have used meth/amphetamines in the last year as people in Major cities.

Unemployed people

were far more likely to smoke daily and use illicit drugs than people who were employed.

Prison entrants

were 5.7 times as likely to smoke daily; 4.5 times as likely to use illicit drugs than the general population.

Pregnant women

generally cut down on or stopped consuming alcohol once they found out they were pregnant.

Homosexual/bisexual people

were 1.9 times as likely to smoke daily, 1.6 times as likely to be a lifetime risky drinker; and 2.7 times as likely to have recently used an illicit drug as heterosexual people.

People diagnosed or treated for a mental illness

were 1.7 times as likely to smoke daily, 1.1 times as likely to drink in risky quantities on a monthly basis, 1.6 times as likely to use an illicit drug as people who have not been diagnosed or treated for a mental illness.

About specific population groups

Good health is not shared equally among people in Australia and there are large differences in the health of different groups. This includes health inequalities such as differences in rates of death and disease, life expectancy, self-perceived health, health behaviours, health risk factors and use of health services. These health inequities are associated with a range of factors including differences in education, occupation, income, employment status, rural location, ethnicity, Aboriginality and gender [1].

Certain groups within the population are at greater risk of developing harmful drug use behaviours or undergoing drug-related harm. Social and economic factors shape risk behaviour and the health of drug users. They affect health directly by affecting the availability of resources, access to social welfare systems, marginalisation and compliance with medication. Minority groups experience a disproportionately high level of the social issues that adversely affect health, factors that contribute to disparities in health among drug users [2].


  1. Draper G, Turrell G & Oldenburg B 2004. Health inequalities in Australia: mortality. Health Inequalities Monitoring Series No. 1 AIHW Cat. no. PHE 55. Canberra: Queensland University of Technology and the AIHW.
  2. Galea S & Vlahov D 2002. Social determinants and the health of drug users: socioeconomic status, homelessness, and incarceration. Public Health Report 117, Supplement 1: S135-45.