Support needed for big drinkers

EMPLOYERS in rural areas, especially those in farming and fishing industries, need more support to cut higher drinking and drug use rates among workers.

That was the perspective from Charles Sturt University senior research fellow Julaine CORRECT Allan, in an opinion piece for The Conversation website.

A 2012 Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation found some 44% of workers in fishing and farming jobs drank alcohol at "high risk levels".

That compares to about 16% in other rural industries who drank in moderate to higher levels.

Ms Allan wrote the riskier drinking behaviour often came down to three factors: expectations of regular drinking, long and irregular working hours and "a lack of information and support to address substance problems".

One study participant said drinking was part of the male farming culture - "if you don't have a beer you're not a man".

But "when people in the study tried to get professional help to change their substance use they found it was hard to get to, or not available at all".

She urged employers to get more advice and support to address substance use "directly with employees" and "develop workplace practices that discourage" it.