A report from the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research, that analysed national household data from 2010, shows that almost 52% of Australia’s drinkers consume more than two standard alcoholic drinks a day - the level recommended by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in their alcohol guidelines.
To make matters worse, 40% of people have more than four standard drinks a day at least monthly, and 16% drink in excess of 11 drinks a day at least once monthly.
The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) says these findings dismantle claims that alcohol misuse is a matter for the minority.
“This research makes two things very clear. First, over half of all Australian drinkers are consuming alcohol at risky levels so this is not a problem for just a minority of drinkers. Second, this will place a significant burden on our already stretched health services if we don’t start to focus on prevention measures proven to curb this type of drinking,” said the Director of Policy and Research for FARE, Caterina Giorgi.
Last month FARE set out ten actions to prevent and reduce alcohol harms, and called on the major political parties to support the policies in the lead up to and following the 2013 Federal Election.
Among the ten actions is a call for greater structured screening and brief interventions, which involve health professionals asking people about their alcohol consumption and offering advice to motivate risky drinkers to reduce their alcohol consumption.
According to the report, in the past twelve months fewer than one in five Australians had been asked by their doctor about their alcohol use.
“We know that health professionals simply asking the question about alcohol consumption is a very effective way of reducing risky drinking, yet those conversations aren’t happening. We’re calling for political parties to support the introduction of a structured program that would provide better training to health professionals to encourage that conversation to take place,” Ms Giorgi said.
NHMRC 2009 Alcohol Guidelines
Guideline 1: Reducing the risk of alcohol-related harm over a lifetime
The lifetime risk of harm from drinking alcohol increases with the amount consumed.
* 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.
Guideline 2: Reducing the risk of injury on a single occasion of drinking
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.
Guideline 3: Children and young people under 18 years of age
For children and young people under 18 years of age, not drinking alcohol is the safest option.
* Parents and carers should be advised that children under 15 years of age are at the greatest risk of harm from drinking and that for this age group, not drinking alcohol is especially important.
* For young people aged 15 to 17 years, the safest option is to delay the initiation of drinking for as long as possible.
Guideline 4: Pregnancy and breastfeeding
Maternal alcohol consumption can harm the developing fetus or breastfeeding baby.
* For women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, not drinking is the safest option.
* For women who are breastfeeding, not drinking is the safest option.