4364.0.55.001 - National Health Survey: First Results, 2014-15  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 08/12/2015   
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ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION

Alcohol occupies a significant place in Australian culture and is consumed in a wide range of social circumstances. In general, alcohol is consumed in Australia at levels of low immediate risk. However, some people drink at levels that increase their risk of developing health problems over the course of their life, as well as increasing their risk of alcohol-related injury.

In 2014-15, 80.6% of Australians aged 18 years and over had consumed alcohol in the past year. A further 8.2% had consumed alcohol 12 or more months ago, and 10.7% had never consumed alcohol. More males had consumed alcohol in the past year (85.6%) than females (75.7%).

Two-thirds (66.2%) of all 15-17 year olds had never consumed alcohol, an increase from 2011-12 when around half (49.1%) of all 15-17 year olds had never consumed alcohol.

Lifetime risk for adults

The 2009 National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines for reducing health risks associated with the consumption of alcohol state that, for healthy men and women, 'drinking no more than two standard drinks on any day reduces the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury'[1].

In 2014-15, 17.4% of adults aged 18 years and over consumed more than two standard drinks per day on average, exceeding the lifetime risk guideline. This was a decrease from 2011-12 when 19.5% of adults exceeded the guideline.

Graph Image for Persons aged 18 years and over - Proportion who exceeded the lifetime risk alcohol guideline(a), 2001 to 2014-15

Footnote(s): (a)More than two standard drinks per day on average.

Source(s): National Health Survey: First Results, 2014-15



Around one in four (25.8%) Australian men exceeded the lifetime risk guideline in 2014-15, a decrease from 29.1% in 2011-12. Of women, one in ten (9.3%) exceeded the guideline, similar to 2011-12 (10.1%). Overall, Australian men were more than twice as likely to exceed the guideline than women.

Western Australia had the highest proportion of adults who consumed more than two standard drinks per day on average (20.8%) while Victoria had the lowest (15.6%).

Graph Image for Persons aged 18 years and over - Proportion who exceeded the lifetime risk alcohol guideline(a), by age, 2001 to 2014-15

Footnote(s): (a) More than two standard drinks at least once in the past year.

Source(s): National Health Survey: First Results, 2014-15



Single occasion risk for adults

The 2009 NHMRC guidelines also advise that on a single occasion of drinking, the risk of alcohol-related injury increases with the amount consumed. For healthy men and women, 'drinking no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion reduces the risk of alcohol-related injury arising from that occasion'[1]. A single occasion of drinking refers to a person consuming a sequence of drinks without their blood alcohol concentration reaching zero in between.

In 2014-15, 44.0% of Australians aged 18 years and over exceeded the single occasion risk threshold of consuming more than 4 standard drinks at least once in the past year, similar to 2011-12 (44.7%). More males exceeded the guideline than women in 2014-15 (56.8% and 31.7% respectively).

Young adults were more likely to exceed the single occasion risk guideline than other ages. In 2014-15, over two-thirds (69.4%) of males aged 18-24 years consumed more than 4 standard drinks at least once in the past year, while 60.6% of females of the same age exceeded the guideline.

The Northern Territory had the highest proportion (47.8%) of adults exceeding the guideline followed by Western Australia (47.0%), while New South Wales and Victoria had the lowest rates (both 42.5%).

Graph Image for Persons aged 18 years and over - Proportion who exceeded the single occasion risk alcohol guideline(a), 2011-12 to 2014-15

Footnote(s): (a)More than four standard drinks at least once in the past year.

Source(s): National Health Survey: First Results, 2014-15



For more information on NHMRC guidelines for the consumption of alcohol, and an explanation of the method used to measure alcohol consumption in ABS health surveys, see Alcohol Consumption in Australia: A Snapshot, 2007-08 (cat. no. 4832.0.55.001).

ENDNOTES

1 National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), 2009. Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol, Canberra: NHMRC. <http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/_files_nhmrc/publications/attachments/ds10-alcohol.pdf>; last accessed 03/12/2015.