Latest release

Revised 2002 and 2008 NATSISS alcohol data by risk level, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Outlines revisions to alcohol data by risk level from the 2002 and 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Surveys

Reference period
2008
Released
15/03/2013
Next release Unknown
First release

Main features

Introduction

This Information Paper outlines revisions to alcohol data by risk level from the 2002 and 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS). Data in this Information Paper reflect the 2001 National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Guidelines for the consumption of alcohol and replace NATSISS information already published on that basis by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

In addition to the revised data in the Information Paper, the ABS has also provided a set of data cubes with more detailed information (listed in Section 2).

In Section 3 of this Paper, the ABS has included, for the first time, NATSISS alcohol data by risk level reflecting the 2009 NHMRC Guidelines for reducing the health risks from drinking alcohol.

The ABS will be revising, on a progressive basis, all known products containing incorrect alcohol data by risk level, as outlined in Section 4 of this paper.

Section 5 of the Information Paper provides an overview of the 2001 and 2009 NHMRC Guidelines.

Data revisions

Risk of harm from alcohol consumption in the long term (chronic risk)

In the 2002 and 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS), respondents aged 15 years and over were asked to report the amount of alcohol consumed on a usual drinking day, as well as the frequency of consumption in the 12 months prior to interview. This information was used to determine their chronic (long-term) alcohol risk level, based on the 2001 National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Guidelines for minimising the risk of long term harm from the consumption of alcohol.

Error in published rates for people drinking at 'low risk' and 'risky' levels 

The 2001 NHMRC Guidelines were incorrectly applied, such that males who reported four standard drinks (50mls of alcohol) and females who reported two standard drinks (25 mls of alcohol) were categorised as drinking at 'risky' rather than 'low risk' levels. Males reporting seven or more standard drinks and females reporting five or more standard drinks were correctly categorised as being at 'high risk' of harm.

Effects of data revisions on 2002 and 2008 NATSISS alcohol data by risk level

The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the 'low risk' category for chronic harm has been revised from 46% to 50% for both 2002 and 2008 — a change of around four percentage points for both males and females in both survey years. At the same time, the rates of 'risky' and 'risky/high risk' drinking have been revised down by the same margin. The revised 2002 and 2008 data show that apart from people drinking at 'risky' levels, differences between male and female rates of alcohol consumption were statistically significant for all levels of risk (tables 1.1 and 1.2).

1.1 Alcohol consumption in the last 12 months by risk level and sex(a)(b), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over - 2002

 Males Females Persons
PublishedRevisedDifference PublishedRevisedDifference PublishedRevisedDifference
Low risk(c)
%
52.7
(d)56.2
+3.5
 
40.0
(d)43.9
+3.9
 
46.1
49.8
+3.7
Risky(e)
%
10.0
6.5
-3.5
 
9.2
5.3
-3.9
 
9.6
5.9
-3.7
High risk(f)
%
7.1
(d)7.1
..
 
4.2
(d)4.2
..
 
5.6
5.6
..
Chronic risky/high risk
%
17.1
(d)13.6
-3.5
 
13.4
(d)9.5
-3.9
 
15.1
11.5
-3.7
Has not consumed alcohol in the last 12 months(g)
%
29.5
(d)29.5
..
 
45.9
(d)45.9
..
 
38.0
38.0
..
Total(h)
%
100.0
100.0
..
 
100.0
100.0
..
 
100.0
100.0
..
Persons aged 15 years and over
no.
135 200
135 200
..
 
147 000
147 000
..
 
282 200
282 200
..
.. Not applicable
a. Based on the amount of alcohol (mls) consumed on a usual drinking day, and the frequency of consumption in the last 12 months.
b. Risk levels reflect the 2001 NHMRC Guidelines. One standard drink contains 12.5 mls of alcohol.
c. For males, up to and including 4 standard drinks, and for females, up to and including 2 standard drinks.
d. Difference between revised rate for males and revised rate for females is statistically significant.
e. For males, 5 or 6 standard drinks, and for females, 3 or 4 standard drinks.
f. For males, 7 or more standard drinks, and for females, 5 or more standard drinks.
g. Includes people who have never consumed alcohol.
h. Includes people for whom level of alcohol consumption was not stated.
Source: 2002 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey
 

1.2 Alcohol consumption in the last 12 months by risk level and sex(a)(b), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over - 2008

 Males Females Persons
PublishedRevisedDifference PublishedRevisedDifference PublishedRevisedDifference
Low risk(c)
%
51.1
(d)55.1
+4.0
 
41.9
(d)46.1
+4.2
 
46.3
50.4
+4.1
Risky(e)
%
11.3
7.3
-4.0
 
10.6
6.4
-4.2
 
10.9
6.8
-4.1
High risk(f)
%
9.0
(d)9.0
..
 
3.7
(d)3.7
..
 
6.3
6.3
..
Chronic risky/high risk
%
20.3
(d)16.4
-4.0
 
14.3
(d)10.1
-4.2
 
17.2
13.1
-4.1
Has not consumed alcohol in the last 12 months(g)
%
26.5
(d)26.5
..
 
43.0
(d)43.0
..
 
35.1
35.1
..
Total(h)
%
100.0
100.0
..
 
100.0
100.0
..
 
100.0
100.0
..
Persons aged 15 years and over
no.
156 100
156 100
..
 
171 000
171 000
..
 
327 100
327 100
..
.. Not applicable
a. Based on the amount of alcohol (mls) consumed on a usual drinking day, and the frequency of consumption in the last 12 months.
b. Risk levels reflect the 2001 NHMRC Guidelines. One standard drink contains 12.5 mls of alcohol.
c. For males, up to and including 4 standard drinks, and for females, up to and including 2 standard drinks.
d. Difference between revised rate for males and revised rate for females is statistically significant.
e. For males, 5 or 6 standard drinks, and for females, 3 or 4 standard drinks.
f. For males, 7 or more standard drinks, and for females, 5 or more standard drinks.
g. Includes people who have never consumed alcohol.
h. Includes people for whom level of alcohol consumption was not stated.
Source: 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey
 

Change, over time, in the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at risk of long term harm

Between 2002 and 2008, the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who had abstained from drinking alcohol in the last 12 months decreased from 38% to 35%. There were no other statistically significant changes in rates over this period.

Risk of harm alcohol consumption in the short term (acute risk)

In the 2002 and 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS), respondents aged 15 years and over were asked to report the largest amount of alcohol (mls) consumed on a single drinking day in the two weeks prior to interview. This information was used to determine their acute (short-term) risk of harm from alcohol consumption, based on the 2001 National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Guidelines.

Error in published rates for people drinking at 'low risk' and 'risky' levels 

The 2001 NHMRC Guidelines for alcohol consumption were incorrectly applied, such that males who reported six standard drinks (75mls of alcohol) and females who reported four standard drinks (50 mls of alcohol) were categorised as drinking at 'risky' rather than 'low risk' levels. Males reporting eleven or more standard drinks and females reporting seven or more standard drinks were correctly categorised as being at 'high risk' of harm.

Effects of data revisions on 2002 NATSISS alcohol data by risk level

The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the 'low risk' category for acute harm has been revised from 11% to 15% — a change of around four percentage points for males and two percentage points for females. At the same time, the rates of 'risky' and 'risky/high risk' drinking have also been revised down by the same margin. The revised 2002 data show that differences between male and female rates of alcohol consumption were statistically significant for all levels of risk (table 1.3).

1.3 Alcohol consumption in the last two weeks by risk level and sex(a)(b), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over - 2002

 Males Females Persons
PublishedRevisedDifference PublishedRevisedDifference PublishedRevisedDifference
Low risk(c)
%
12.0
(d)16.2
+4.3
 
10.7
(d)13.1
+2.4
 
11.3
14.6
+3.3
Risky(e)
%
16.2
(d)11.9
-4.3
 
7.8
(d)5.4
-2.4
 
11.8
8.5
-3.3
High risk(f)
%
28.3
(d)28.3
..
 
18.3
(d)18.3
..
 
23.1
23.1
..
Acute risky/high risk
%
44.5
(d)40.2
-4.3
 
26.1
(d)23.8
-2.4
 
34.9
31.7
-3.3
Has not consumed alcohol in the last two weeks(g)
%
43.1
(d)43.1
..
 
62.7
(d)62.7
..
 
53.3
53.3
..
Total(h)
%
100.0
100.0
..
 
100.0
100.0
..
 
100.0
100.0
..
Persons aged 15 years and over
no.
135 200
135 200
..
 
147 000
147 000
..
 
282 200
282 200
..
.. Not applicable
a. Based on the largest amount of alcohol (mls) consumed on a single drinking day in the last two weeks.
b. Risk levels reflect the 2001 NHMRC Guidelines. One standard drink contains 12.5 mls of alcohol.
c. For males, up to and including 6 standard drinks, and for females, up to and including 4 standard drinks.
d. Difference between revised rate for males and revised rate for females is statistically significant.
e. For males, 7 to 10 standard drinks, and for females, 5 or 6 standard drinks.
f. For males, 11 or more standard drinks, and for females, 7 or more standard drinks.
g. Includes people who have never consumed alcohol.
h. Includes people for whom level of alcohol consumption was not stated.
Source: 2002 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey
 

Effects of data revisions on 2008 NATSISS alcohol data by risk level

The overall proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the 'low risk' category for acute harm has been revised from 13% to 16% — a change of around five percentage points for males and one percentage point for females. At the same time, the rates of 'risky' and 'risky/high risk' drinking have also been revised down by the same margin. The revised 2008 data show that differences between male and female rates of alcohol consumption were statistically significant for all risk levels (table 1.4).

1.4 Alcohol consumption in the last two weeks by risk level and sex(a)(b), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over - 2008

 Males Females Persons
PublishedRevisedDifference PublishedRevisedDifference PublishedRevisedDifference
Low risk(c)
%
15.0
(d)20.1
+5.1
 
11.1
(d)12.4
+1.3
 
12.9
16.1
+3.2
Risky(e)
%
15.8
(d)10.7
-5.1
 
6.9
(d)5.6
-1.3
 
11.2
8.0
-3.2
High risk(f)
%
30.3
(d)30.3
..
 
21.3
(d)21.3
..
 
25.6
25.6
..
Acute risky/high risk
%
46.1
(d)40.9
-5.1
 
28.2
(d)26.9
-1.3
 
36.8
33.6
-3.2
Has not consumed alcohol in the last two weeks(g)
%
37.6
(d)37.6
..
 
60.3
(d)60.3
..
 
49.5
49.5
..
Total(h)
%
100.0
100.0
..
 
100.0
100.0
..
 
100.0
100.0
..
Persons aged 15 years and over
no.
156 100
156 100
..
 
171 000
171 000
..
 
327 100
327 100
..
.. Not applicable
a. Based on the largest amount of alcohol (mls) consumed on a single drinking day in the last two weeks.
b. Risk levels reflect the 2001 NHMRC Guidelines. One standard drink contains 12.5 mls of alcohol.
c. For males, up to and including 6 standard drinks, and for females, up to and including 4 standard drinks.
d. Difference between revised rate for males and revised rate for females is statistically significant.
e. For males, 7 to 10 standard drinks, and for females, 5 or 6 standard drinks.
f. For males, 11 or more standard drinks, and for females, 7 or more standard drinks.
g. Includes people who have never consumed alcohol.
h. Includes people for whom level of alcohol consumption was not stated.
Source: 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey
 

Change, over time, in the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at risk of short-term harm

Between 2002 and 2008, the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who had abstained from drinking alcohol in the two weeks prior to interview decreased from 53% to 49%. While there were decreases for both males (from 43% to 38%) and females (from 63% to 60%), only the change for males was statistically significant. Over the same period, the proportion of males at low risk of harm in the short term increased from 16% to 20%. 

NATSISS alcohol data based on 2009 NHMRC guidelines

Lifetime risk of harm

In the 2002 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS), around one in six (17%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over were drinking at levels that put them at lifetime risk of harm, with a similar proportion (19%) reported in 2008. In both survey years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males were significantly more likely than females to have exposed themselves to lifetime risk of harm from drinking alcohol. 

Between 2002 and 2008, the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who had abstained from drinking alcohol in the last 12 months decreased from 38% to 35%. There were no other statistically significant changes in rates over this period.

3.1 Lifetime risk of harm(a)(b), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over, 2002 and 2008

 20022008
MalesFemalesPersonsMalesFemalesPersons
Exceeds guidelines(c)
%
(d)25.5
(d)9.5
17.2
(d)29.1
(d)10.1
19.2
Does not exceed guidelines(e)
%
44.3
43.9
44.1
(d)42.4
(d)46.1
44.3
Has not consumed alcohol in last 12 months(f)
%
(d)29.5
(d)45.9
(g)38.0
(d)26.5
(d)43.0
(g)35.1
Total(h)
%
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
Persons aged 15 years and over
no.
135 200
147 000
282 200
156 100
171 000
327 100
a. Risk levels reflect the 2009 NHMRC Guidelines for alcohol consumption. One standard drink contains 12.5 mls of alcohol.
b. The same guidelines apply to both males and females.
c. Consumed more than 2 standard drinks.
d. Difference between male and female rate for same survey year is statistically significant.
e. Consumed up to and including 2 standard drinks.
f. Includes people who have never consumed alcohol.
g. Difference between 2002 and 2008 rate is statistically significant.
h. Includes people for whom level of alcohol consumption was not stated.
Source: 2002 and 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Surveys
 

Single occasion risk of harm

In the 2002 NATSISS, around one in three (35%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over were drinking at levels that had put them at risk of harm on at least one occasion in the two weeks prior to interview. A similar proportion (38%)of people were at short-term risk of harm in 2008. In both survey years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males were significantly more likely than females to have exposed themselves to risk of harm by exceeding the 2009 NHMRC Guidelines on single occasion alcohol consumption.

Between 2002 and 2008, the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who had abstained from drinking alcohol in the two weeks prior to interview decreased from 53% to 49%. While there were decreases for both males (from 43% to 38%) and females (from 63% to 60%), only the change for males was statistically significant. 

3.2 Single occasion risk of harm(a)(b), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over, 2002 and 2008

 20022008
MalesFemalesPersonsMalesFemalesPersons
Exceeds guidelines(c)
%
(d)47.2
(d)23.8
35.0
(d)50.0
(d)26.9
37.9
Does not exceed guidelines(e)
%
(d)9.3
(d)13.1
11.3
11.1
12.4
11.8
Has not consumed alcohol in the last two weeks(f)
%
(d)(g)43.1
(d)62.7
(g)53.3
(d)(g)37.6
(d)60.3
(g)49.5
Total(h)
%
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
Persons aged 15 years and over
no.
135 200
147 000
282 200
156 100
171 000
327 100
a. Risk levels reflect the 2009 NHMRC Guidelines for alcohol consumption. One standard drink contains 12.5 mls of alcohol.
b. The same guidelines apply to both males and females.
c. Consumed more than 4 standard drinks.
d. Difference between male and female rate for same survey year is statistically significant.
e. Consumed up to and including 4 standard drinks.
f. Includes people who have never consumed alcohol.
g. Difference between 2002 and 2008 rate is statistically significant.
h. Includes people for whom level of alcohol consumption was not stated.
Source: 2002 and 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Surveys

Revisions to Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) products

A number of ABS publications and other products include incorrect NATSISS data and/or glossary entries for alcohol data by risk level, based on the 2001 NHMRC Guidelines for alcohol consumption. These products will be revised on a progressive basis, following the release of this Information Paper. 

4.1 ABS products to be revised

ABS cat. no. Product title
Confidentialised Unit Record Files  
4720.0 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey: Expanded Confidentialised Unit Record File, 2002
4720.0.55.001 Microdata: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, Expanded CURF, 2008
Publications  
1301.0 Year Book Australia 2012
4704.0 The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, 2003, 2005, 2008 and 2010
4714.0 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 2002 and 2008
4715.0 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey, 2004–05
4720.0 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey: Users' Guide, 2008
4725.0 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Wellbeing: A focus on children and youth, 2011
Data cubes  
4714.0.55.001 – 4714.8.55.001 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey 2002: Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory
4714.0 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey 2008: Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory

2001 and 2009 National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines

2001 Australian alcohol guidelines: health risks and benefits

In 2001, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) released guidelines on the health risks and benefits of alcohol consumption. The guidelines for minimising risk of harm in the longer term were based on evidence which showed that Australians who drank regularly, and at high levels, were at greater risk of chronic ill-health (and premature death) than those who drank less frequently and at lower levels. The guidelines for reducing risk in the short term reflected evidence that a single episode of heavy drinking places the drinker at increased risk of injury and death. The 2001 Guidelines for adults were designed for men and women of average or larger body size, that is, people over 160cm in height and 50kg in weight.

According to the 2001 NHMRC Guidelines:

  • Low risk drinking is associated with minimal risk of harm to the drinker, and potentially some health benefits
  • Risky drinking is a level of drinking at which the risk of harm significantly outweighs any potential health benefits
  • High risk drinking is associated with substantial risk of serious harm to the drinker.
     

5.1 National Health and Medical Research Council - Australian alcohol guidelines: health risks and benefits, 2001

 Level of risk
 Low riskRiskyHigh risk
Minimising risk in the longer term   
Males
up to 4 standard drinks(a)
5–6 standard drinks(a)
7 or more standard drinks(a)
Females
up to 2 standard drinks(a)
3–4 standard drinks(a)
5 or more standard drinks(a)
Minimising risk in the short term   
Males
up to 6 standard drinks(a)
7–10 standard drinks(a)
11 or more standard drinks(a)
Females
up to 4 standard drinks(a)
5–6 standard drinks(a)
7 or more standard drinks(a)
a. One standard drink contains 12.5 mls of alcohol.
Source: National Health and Medical Research Council (2001), Australian Alcohol Guidelines: Health Risks and Benefits.
 

2009 Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol

In 2009, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) released new guidelines designed to reduce the health risks from drinking alcohol. The new guidelines for healthy adults focus on reducing the overall lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury that results from many drinking occasions; and on reducing the immediate risk of alcohol-related injury from drinking on a single occasion. They go beyond the focus of the 2001 Guidelines by introducing the concept of progressively increasing risk of harm (with increased alcohol consumption) rather than specifying what constitutes 'low risk', 'risky' or 'high risk' drinking. The 2009 Guidelines also differ from the 2001 Guidelines in that the same levels of risks are assumed to apply to both men and women.

According to the 2009 Guidelines: 

  • 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
  • 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
     

5.2 National Health and Medical Research Council - Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol, 2009

 Level of risk
Does not exceed guidelinesExceeds guidelines
Guideline 1 – Lifetime risk(a)
up to and including 2 standard drinks(b)
more than 2 standard drinks(b)
Guideline 2 – Single occasion risk(a)
up to and including 4 standard drinks(b)
more than 4 standard drinks(b)
a. Guidelines relate to both males and females.
b. One standard drink contains 12.5 mls of alcohol.
Source: National Health and Medical Research Council (2009), Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol.

Data downloads

Table 01 Alcohol consumption in the last 12 months by risk level, sex and age groups, 2002 and 2008

Table 02 Alcohol consumption in the last 12 months by risk level, sex and remoteness area, 2002 and 2008

Table 03 Alcohol consumption in the last 12 months by risk level, sex and state or territory, 2002 and 2008

Table 04 Alcohol consumption in the last two weeks by risk level, sex and age groups, 2002 and 2008

Table 05 Alcohol consumption in the last two weeks by risk level, sex and remoteness area, 2002 and 2008

Table 06 Alcohol consumption in the last two weeks by risk level, sex and state or territory, 2002 and 2008

Abbreviations

Show all

ABSAustralian Bureau of Statistics
ACTAustralian Capital Territory
CURFConfidentialised Unit Record File
mlmillilitre
NATSISSNational Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey
NHMRCNational Health and Medical Research Council
NSWNew South Wales
NTNorthern Territory
QldQueensland
RSERelative Standard Error
SASouth Australia
TasTasmania
Vic.Victoria
WAWestern Australia

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 4714.0.55.005.