According to studies by Alcoholthinkagain and the ABS, 77 per cent of Australians drink alcohol and over 5 million people drink more than is recommended in the Australian Adult Alcohol Guidelines.
Alcohol has been entrenched into Australian culture since colonisation, especially concerning ‘binge’ drinking. It is a “colourful thread woven into the fabric of our society,” according to Edith Cowan University senior lecturer of addiction Stephen Bright.
However, studies conducted by Australian researchers have suggested that over the past 20 years Australians have slowed down when it comes to drinking. These studies showed that young people are drinking less than the youth who came before them, with many viewing alcohol as unhealthy and morally irresponsible.
Social media has played a major role in the declining rates in alcoholic intake by young people. Dr Bright said that young people are concerned about embarrassing themselves on social media when drunk and some are avoiding alcohol entirely to avoid embarrassments being broadcast on the internet.
Dr Bright said another reason for declining drinking rates in young adults has been the focus on world problems, such as climate change, and economic issues, such as employment opportunities. He added that the environment young adults have come into is vastly different to what previous generations faced.
Programs have also been established to teach young people about alcohol and drug abuse and to offer support. The Alcohol and Drug Foundation’s knowledge manager for policy and advocacy, Robert Taylor, said the ADF has worked on alcohol harm minimisation in communities.
One of these initiatives is the Good Sports program, which has worked with over 12,000 sporting clubs across Australia. The program has transformed drinking cultures in many sporting clubs into healthy environments that have allowed young people who choose not to drink to feel accepted.
The decline in drinking levels by young adults, due to alcohol-free programs and changing attitudes, have prompted the alcoholic industry to respond, in the form of new varieties of alcopops.
While alcopops are nothing new, having emerged decades ago in response to taxes placed on specific alcoholic beverages in the 2000s, Hard Solo, launched last month, is the newest addition to the alcopops family. The launched raised concerns that alcopops and non-alcoholic drinks being marketed to minors are inticements into drinking culture.
Dr Bright said he believes that non-alcoholic drinks being allowed in supermarkets exposes children to alcohol brands from an early age.
Mr Taylor said exposing young children to alcohol impacts their trajectory with alcohol later in life. He is concerned about the easy access the alcohol industry has to young children.
While studies have shown that young adults are drinking less, Professor Bright said: “It’s going to take a long time for the actual culture to change.”