Six too many

A new report released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals one in four Australians consume more than the recommended amount of alcohol.

The data was gathered in 2020 and 2021 and shows 25.8 per cent of Australian adults drink more than 10 standard drinks per week, exceeding the Adult Alcohol Guideline of four. 

One in three men over-consume the recommended amount compared to one in five women. 

One in four Australians consume more than the recommended alcohol limit. Photo: Amy Figueiredo.

General practitioner Lewin Bedford-Brown, from Cottesloe Medical Centre, says there are complex reasons why people drink but there are wide-ranging impacts from long-term alcohol consumption.

“Some people drink because of social expectations and influences, while others do it as a coping strategy to deal with stress.

“Large amounts of alcohol make people lose their memory, have chronic diseases and blood alcohol levels of about 0.3 can cause death.” 

Dr Bedford-Brown encourages people to stop heavy drinking habits to remain healthy. 

“For healthy adults, drinking no more than two standard drinks per day reduces the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury.”

National Drug Research Institute associate professor Michael Livingston analyses drinking trends and isn’t surprised by the ABS data.  

“Drinking is embedded in Australia culture,” Dr Livingston says.

“The statistics are not ideal, but they’re better than they have been. Drinking is a $50 billion industry.”

Dr Livingston also believes the pandemic has had an interesting impact on the amount of alcohol consumed. 

“The pandemic has definitely influenced how much people drink, but not in a straightforward way,” he says.

“Overall, the drinking in young people went down during lockdowns since people weren’t going out. For middle aged people and people with stresses, it went up.

“Different groups reacted in different ways.”

The Australian Bureau of Statistics says men are more likely to over-consume alcohol than women. Photo: Amy Figueiredo.

DrinkWise Australia chief executive Simon Strahan also says pandemic stress has caused an increase in alcohol consumption.

“We have found some people may have turned to alcohol in the past 18 months,” he says.

“We are really keen to reinforce to them that turning to alcohol as a way to deal with stress and anxiety is definitely not the answer.”

The organisation is working with Australians struggling with alcohol addiction by educating them on how to decrease their consumption rate.

“Australians need to reflect on what and how much they drink,” Mr Strahan says.

“Set limits, pace yourself and look out for others.”

Despite the ABS report, Dr Livingston says the country’s alcohol consumption is better than it has been and is slowly decreasing.

“We’re moving in the right direction. It’s been so embedded in Australian culture for so long that these gradual shifts we’re seeing are the best we can hope for.”

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