THE findings of national research into the drinking habits of farm workers reflects the cultural importance of alcohol which begins at a young age.
While advocates of a more responsible approach to the advertising and consumption of alcohol tend to focus on breaking down the entrenched partnership between alcohol and sport there is a need to look at other ways alcohol is portrayed to particular groups in the community.
In the case of rural workers across Australia, one does not have to look far to see examples of the importance of alcohol in a culture which espouses hard work, mateship and a touch of the Aussie larrikin.
Social drinking in many rural areas starts with the B&S ball circuit. This highlight of the social calendar and rite of passage for many young men and women, is synonymous with consuming copious amounts of beer and mixed spirits and partying until the sun comes up.
For young people growing up in rural areas where the B&S and the country pub are often the centre of social life, working hard and drinking hard are the norm.
Just how strongly alcohol features in our romantic view of life in the Aussie bush can be seen in the research findings that non-drinkers were viewed with suspicion or mistrust.
In small communities without alternative groups and diverse interests the peer pressure to fit into a drinking culture is probably even stronger than it is for young people in urban areas.
By the time young people move into the rural workforce if alcohol is not already an important part of their life, the research indicates it soon will be.
The ability to still function at work appears to be the only test of whether someone is drinking too much when the truth is a great deal of damage can be done long before symptoms appear.