Objective: To document rates of serious injuries in relation to government alcohol restrictions in remote Australian Indigenous communities.
Design and setting: An ecological study using Royal Flying Doctor Service injury retrieval data, before and after changes in legal access to alcohol in four remote Australian Indigenous communities, Queensland, 1 January 1996-31 July 2010.
Main outcome measures: Changes in rates of aeromedical retrievals for serious injury, and proportion of retrievals for serious injury, before and after alcohol restrictions.
Results: After alcohol restrictions were introduced in 2002-2003, retrieval rates for serious injury dropped initially, and then increased in the 2 years before further restrictions in 2008 (average increase, 2.34 per 1000 per year). This trend reversed in the 2 years after the 2008 restrictions (average decrease, 7.97 per 1000 per year). There was a statistically significant decreasing time trend in serious-injury retrieval rates in each of the four communities for the period 2 years before the 2002-2003 restrictions, 2 years before the 2008 restrictions, and the final 2 years of observations (2009-2010) (P < 0.001 for all four communities combined). Overall, serious-injury retrieval rates dropped from 30 per 1000 in 2008 to 14 per 1000 in 2010, and the proportions of serious-injury retrievals decreased significantly for all four communities.
Conclusion: The absolute and the proportional rates of serious-injury retrievals fell significantly as government restrictions on legal access to alcohol increased; they are now at their lowest recorded level in 15 years.