4832.0.55.001 - Alcohol Consumption in Australia: A Snapshot, 2007-08  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 18/05/2012   
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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 alcohol-related injury, as well as their risk of developing health problems over the course of their life. In 2003, harmful alcohol consumption was responsible for 3.2% of the total burden of disease and injury in Australia [1]. Globally, harmful use of alcohol is the third highest risk factor for disease burden and results in 2.5 million deaths each year [2].

Since 1986, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has provided guidelines for reducing the health risks associated with alcohol consumption. These aim to provide an evidence base for the development of policy on alcohol consumption, and to provide advice to the community on how to avoid or minimise the health risks associated with drinking alcohol. The guidelines have evolved as new research and evidence has become available, with new guidelines issued in 2009 to supercede those released in 2001.

Since 1989, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has included questions in the National Health Survey (NHS) to measure patterns of alcohol consumption in Australia, including the number and proportion of people drinking at levels which exceed the NHMRC guidelines. The most recent survey, conducted in 2007-08, collected information specifically to measure against the 2001 NHMRC guidelines, and can to some extent be also used to measure against the 2009 guidelines.

This article discusses how data from the 2007-08 NHS can be used to provide information on alcohol consumption in Australia with regard to both the 2001 and 2009 guidelines. Further information on the characteristics of people with differing levels of alcohol consumption will be published at a later date as part of a supplement attached to this publication.

More recent data will become available in late 2012 when results of the ABS 2011-13 Australian Health Survey are released. Questions in the 2011-13 survey have been specifically designed to measure alcohol consumption against the 2009 NHMRC guidelines, while also allowing for a continuation of trend analysis of consumption based on the 2001 guidelines.