Drinking in moderation is the new norm

16 July 2020


Findings from the most comprehensive, independent, and trusted set of data on Australia’s drinking practices have confirmed a continuation of longstanding positive trends in our community.

“These significant results confirm that our drinking culture has permanently changed for the better with drinking in moderation the new norm,” Alcohol Beverages Australia Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Wilsmore said.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019, conducted every three years, has revealed continuous improvements across a range of indicators:

  • The vast majority (83.2%) of people drinking moderately or abstaining, a 4.2 percentage improvement from 2001 and the highest on record.
  • Australians are increasingly abstaining from alcohol altogether, with 20.9% of legal age drinkers choosing not to drink in the previous 12 months, a statistically significant increase from 2016 (19.5% abstainers).
  • Our youngest cohort of drinkers (people aged in their 20s) are drinking more responsibly than any generation before, with 62% consuming four standard drinks or less on one occasion in a month in 2019, compared to 49% in 2001.
  • They are also abstaining more, with 22% of people in their 20s avoiding alcohol, compared to 8.9% in 2001.
  • Teenagers are also heading the lessons of moderation. In 2001, 60% of 14–19 year olds stayed within the single occasion risk guidelines (no more than 4 standard drinks on any one occasion in a month), but this rose to 80% in 2019. Over the same period, the proportion who stayed within the lifetime risk guidelines (less than 2 standard drinks a day) rose from 80.2% to 94%.
  • There are fewer underage drinkers than ever before, with 72% never having had a drink before turning 18, compared to 44% in 2001.
  • The age of first drink has also gone up from 14.7 years old in 2001 to 16.2 years in 2019,
  • Pregnant women are increasingly abstaining from alcohol all-together, with a rise in abstinence from 40% in 2007 to 65% in 2019.

Mr Wilsmore said “These results signal a huge cultural shift has taken place in Australia. We are now more likely to intervene when someone is binge drinking or not in control, whereas a few decades ago, they may have been cheered on.

“Now we are drinking more responsibly, Australians are increasingly comfortable that the moderate consumption of a beer, wine or spirit is part of the Australian way of life. Public support declined for 12 (out of 17) measures that place significant restrictions on people’s access, cost and enjoyment of a beverage, with the strongest opposition being for measures that made it harder or more expensive to obtain alcohol.

“Most pronounced has been the blowback on lockout laws, with the ‘reducing of trading hours for pubs and clubs’ recording the biggest drop in support (from 39% in 2016 to 31% in 2019). This measure also had the largest increase in opposition (from 34% to 40%), making it the first time more people have opposed the policy measure than supported it since 2004 (when 32% supported and 40% opposed).

“Beer, wine and spirit producers and retailers have invested heavily on a range of initiatives aimed at improving Australia’s drinking culture and it is pleasing that these programs are having a positive impact.

“Through DrinkWise, the sector has been targeting parental behaviour and peer group influence. Retail initiatives such as ID25 (asking for ID if you look 25 or younger) and Don’t Buy It For Them (stopping others from buying alcohol for the underage) are clearly aimed at stopping underage drinking. The Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code Scheme ensures marketing meets community standards and does not encourage excessive consumption or appeal to minors. The pregnancy pictogram carried on 3 out of every 4 products in the liquor shoppers basket informs women not to drink while pregnant. The survey results show these initiatives to have been highly successful.

“While these results are positive, more needs to be done. More pronounced harmful consumption still occurs in some areas and certain age groups and we are committed to working with governments and local communities to address this in ways that are meaningful to those at risk,” Mr Wilsmore said.

Media inquiries:   Andrew Wilsmore, 0403 570 407

Source: AIHW NDSHS 2019

Source: AIHW NDSHS 2019


Correction Via Letter To Editor – Sydney Morning Herald

"The Alcohol industry is working positively and closely with FSANZ to implement energy labelling on its products to assist consumers make informed responsible choices. Any claim that the introduction of energy labelling is not supported by the alcohol industry is...

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