Health Canada is funding a new study that will attempt to shed light on drinking habits in the North, and what people know and believe about booze.

"There really is very little or limited evidence in the territories related to alcohol — opinions, knowledge, behaviours related to alcohol. So that's the real purpose of this study, is to try to fill that gap," said lead scientist Erin Hobin of Public Health Ontario.

"The evidence that is available — albeit limited — does indicate that [for] people living in Yukon and N.W.T., or visiting either of the territories, overall alcohol consumption rates are higher than in other parts of Canada."

The $700,000 multi-year study will initially focus on people in Whitehorse and Yellowknife. The first phase of the research involves a voluntary survey of liquor store customers in each city.

"We want to recruit people who are currently consuming alcohol," Hobin said.  

Erin Hobin

The research data could be used to develop better public policy and 'support people in making more informed and safer alcohol choices,' said Erin Hobin of Public Health Ontario. (CBC)

Participants are asked general questions about themselves, and also "about alcohol consumption, where they get information about alcohol, what sort of conditions are associated with consuming alcohol," Hobin said.

The researchers are also working with the two territorial governments to collect data on liquor sales. 

Hobin says the goal is to provide more and better information to governments and health practitioners, so they can develop harm reduction policies that "can best support people in making more informed and safer alcohol choices," Hobin said.

She says alcohol is the leading cause of death and disease in Canada, so it's important for officials to understand drinking behaviour and attitudes.

Surveys will be conducted between now and June 3, then again next year. 

Hobin says researchers also hope to eventually expand the study to rural communities in Yukon and N.W.T.

With files from Nancy Thomson