Australia: Australians are drinking less alcohol as prices rise and club trading hours fall, research shows
The Sydney Morning Herald
By Bianca Hall
October 7, 2016
Australians’ famed boozing habits are on the wane, and increasing the price of alcohol and reducing pubs and clubs’ trading hours could be responsible, new research suggests.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s 10-year survey of the nation’s drinking habits shows a generation gap has emerged among Australian drinkers, with young adults the most likely to consume alcohol at risky levels, and older adults most likely to seek treatment for alcohol abuse.
Overall, Australians are consuming less alcohol, from an average 10.8 litres of pure alcohol per person in 2008–09, to 9.7 litres per person in 2013–14.
Almost three-quarters of teenagers abstained from alcohol in 2013, up from 64 per cent in 2010, separate AIHW research shows.
Faced with late-night violence in entertainment precincts, Australian state and local governments have tried to restrict the capacity of businesses to sell alcohol at all hours to curb the anti-social behaviour associated with problem drinking.
And according to the AIHW, this could be working.
“Research shows increasing the price of alcohol, restricting trading hours and reducing outlet density can have positive outcomes in reducing consumption and harms related to alcohol use,” the report found.
“Reviews into the effectiveness of different strategies to reduce alcohol consumption and the negative consequences of drinking alcohol have found strong evidence for the effectiveness of restrictions on economic availability (such as increased taxes and minimum pricing) and physical availability (such as restricting the days and hours of sale).”
Of these strategies, research cited by the AIHW suggests, increasing the cost of alcohol is the most effective.
While the overall rate of drinking dropped over the past decade, the AIHW warns that excessive alcohol use remains the biggest drug problem in Australia.
In 2013, the AIHW reported, more than 3 million Australians reported drinking 11 or more standard drinks in a single occasion at least once a year, putting themselves at a very high level of risk.
Young adults aged 18-24 were the most likely to drink at risky levels, with 47 per cent reporting they had drunk alcohol at risky levels once, 33 per cent reporting drinking at “very high levels” yearly, and 18 per cent drinking at “very high levels” monthly.
“In the short term, risks associated with drinking alcohol include anti-social behaviour, exposure to violence, including domestic and family violence, accidents and injury,” the AIHW reported.
“In the long term, risks range from chronic health conditions, such as cardiovascular diseases and cancer, and alcohol dependence.”
But overall, more Australians are thinking twice about their drinking habits.
The rate of people who had never had a full serving of alcohol rose from 9.3 per cent in 2004 to 14 per cent in 2013.
The rate of ex-drinkers rose from 7.1 per cent to 8 per cent, and the number of people abstaining from alcohol rose from 17 per cent to 22 per cent (the AIHW defines ex-drinkers as those who have not drunk in the past year, and abstainers as those who have never consumed alcohol).
More people are also seeking treatment for alcohol abuse, with a 30 per cent rise in the number of Australians getting help compared with a decade ago.
Almost half the people in treatment for alcohol abuse were aged 40-49.