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 may 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 2017-18, 78.8% of Australians aged 18 years and over had consumed alcohol in the past year. A further 8.5% had consumed alcohol 12 or more months ago, and 11.6% had never consumed alcohol. More men had consumed alcohol in the past year (84.5%) than women (73.3%).
- One in six (16.1%) persons aged 18 years and over consumed more than two standard drinks per day on average, exceeding the lifetime risk guideline in 2017-18. This continued to decline from 17.4% in 2014-15 and 19.5% in 2011-12. More than one in five (23.7%) men and around one in eleven women (8.8%) exceeded the lifetime risk guideline in 2017-18. Whilst men were more likely than women to exceed the guideline, the proportion of men exceeding declined since 2014-15 (25.8%) whilst for women the rate remains largely unchanged (9.3%)
- Just over two in five (42.1%) adults aged 18 years and over, consumed more than four standard drinks on one occasion in the past year, exceeding the single occasion risk guideline which is a decrease from 44.0% in 2014-15.
- Men were more likely to exceed the single occasion risk guideline than women, with 54.2% and 30.5% consuming more than four standard drinks respectively. However the proportion of men exceeding the guideline continued to decline from 56.8% in 2014-15, whilst for women the proportion remained constant (31.7% in 2014-15).
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' .
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' . A single occasion of drinking refers to a person consuming a sequence of drinks without their blood alcohol concentration reaching zero in between.
For more information please refer to the Glossary.