Diseases of Violence and Addiction: Part 1: Brief Overview

Alcoholism, smoking, accidents (principally motor vehicle accidents), and suicide are the most important diseases of violence and addiction in the South Pacific [1]. "With the exception of smoking, these diseases have received considerable attention because of their very rapid and recent increase and, in the case of accidents and suicides, because their occurrence among young males involves dramatic, premature death" [1]. The data for alcohol-related problems are not reliable but seem to substantiate governmental concern over this growing problem [2].

Major concerns today [1]:

1. Binge-drinking rather than chronic alcoholism, (although the complications of chronic drinking may emerge as problems in the future)

2. Accidents;

3. Domestic violence and;

4. Suicide associated with drunkenness is a major concern today, although the complications of chronic drinking may emerge as problems in future years.

Additionally, the social and nutritional effect related to excessive drinking on the family when scarce household cash is used for liquor rather than basic necessities, such as food [3] [4].

Alcohol-related morbidity and mortality tend to be under-reported; they usually are reflected in statistics on other illnesses or events (e.g. motor vehicle accidents and injuries) [1]. Indirect indicators such as the volume of alcoholic beverages imported per capita or through the rare special study patterns of excessive consumption of alcohol must be traced [5]. "Estimating the public health significance of motor vehicle accidents in the South Pacific poses similar problems: the data are patchy and probably inaccurate and they have been less analyzed" [1]. However, a recent review of existing data indicates that motor vehicle accidents are significant problems; when standardized rates for fatalities in various South Pacific island groupings were compared with Australia and New Zealand, fatality rates in the Pacific ranged from two times higher (in Samoa and in the islands overall) to five or six times higher in recent years in Fiji [6]". Not surprisingly, the higher fatality rate is associated with the more common motor vehicles used for transport in a country [1].

Factors to reduce road accidents include [1]:

1. Vehicle safety and maintenance.

2. Properly regulated driving skills.

3. Upgrade of roads.

4. Driver education and regulation.

5. Following the national speed limits.

6. Better data collection and analysis will shed further light on the causes underlying these trends.

A final cause of violent, premature death in certain South Pacific islands is suicide [1]. According to recent evidence compiled by epidemiologists, there has been an increase in the rate of accidental and intentional death [1].

The Solomon Islands appears not to be experiencing the same precipitous rise in suicide rates [1]. Women appear to commit suicide there more often compared to men, allegedly in response to failed love affairs, family tensions, and out-of-wedlock pregnancies, and often through overdoses of chloroquine [1]. One hypothesis is that female suicide is a response to the lack of control and options young women experience [7]. Many of these suicides may be prevented through better regulation and protection of the herbicide and education aimed at avoiding unintentional poisoning [1].

Diseases for violence and addiction are serious and are increasing in the Pacific since the past decades. Data on such issues are slowly improving to provide Pacific islanders statistical evidence of the severity such issues can have in our society. These diseases will be looked into in greater depth in the following parts of this topic.


  1. An Overview of South Pacific Population Problems. Penny Kane and David Lucas. Asia-Pacific Population Journal, Vol. 1, No, 4. 1985

  2. South Pacific Commission/World Health Organization. SPC/WHO Joint Con- ference on Alcohol Related Problems in Pacific island Countries (Noumea, New Caledonia, 9-13 September 1985). Country Statement: Fiji. 1985

  3. Marshall, Mac, F.X., Hezel N., Mellar and J. Dickhudt. “Alcohol Use and Abuse.” Pacific Magazine, vol. I, No. 4, pp. 34-38. 1982.

  4. Richardson, Julie. “The Curse of the Bottle.” Islands Business, vol. 9, No. 1, p. 37.

  5. Taylor R .(1985b). Health in the Pacific Islands. Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center, Honolulu, Hawaii. 1983

  6. McLean, A.J. Notes on Road Traffic Accidents. South Pacific Commission Ele- venth Regional Conference of Permanent Heads of Health Services. Noumea, New Caledonia, lo-14 March, 1986

  7. Gegeo, D.W. and Watson, Gegeo, K.A. “Patterns of Suicide in West Kwara ae, Malaita, Solomon Islands.” In: Culture, Youth and Suicide in the Pacific; Papers from an East-West Center Conference

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