Australia

Review dispels long held beliefs about Australian drinking problems

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Review dispels long held beliefs about Australian drinking problems

Related tags: Drinking culture, Alcoholic beverage

Australians are not in fact drinking more alcohol and cases of drink-fuelled violence are not on the up, in spite of longstanding beliefs in the contrary, if an industry analysis is to be believed.

The study, in which the Australian Liquor Stores Association (Alsa) analysed government research, found that adults are now drinking one-quarter less alcohol than they did in the ‘Seventies, which in turn has contributed to a dramatic fall in alcohol-related violence. It also identified a plummeting rate of teenage drinking.

Dispelling theories

However, its findings contradict views held by Australia’s anti-alcohol lobby, which believes that the country is drinking more, drinking earlier and seeing a growth in alcohol related violence.

In 1974-75, Australians consumed the equivalent of 13.1 litres per person, according to government figures. However, the Alsa review, which used findings from studies including the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s National Drug Strategy Household Survey, ABS and Bocsar data, found that figure has fallen considerably since the early 80s, decreasing to 9.9 litres in the most recently reported year of 2012-13.

Australia’s drinking habits have changed significantly over the course of the four decades​,” said Terry Mott, Alsa’s chief executive. “We are more educated about alcohol and we are making much better choices than we ever have before​.”

According to the study, almost three-quarters of teenagers under legal drinking age do not drink alcohol, with the proportion of minors choosing not to drink growing by 29% since 2007 to 72% in 2013. Moreover, alcohol-related violence has also dropped by 30% since 2008 in New South Wales.

These results come at a time when the number of liquor licences has increased by 16%, proving a lack of evidence between alcohol availability and its consumption and subsequent violence​,” said Mott.

Public wants tougher penalties and enforcement

Population-wide measures to reduce alcohol-related problems receive the lowest level of community support among the government studies reviewed. 

Only 28% favour an increase in the price of alcohol, while targeted measures are strongly supported, including greater enforcement of penalties for drink drivers (85%), enforcement against supplying minors (84%) and enforcement against serving intoxicated customers (82%).

Australian Institute of Health & Welfare data shows that Australians want governments to focus on problem drinkers, with harsher penalties for drink driving and tougher enforcement against those serving alcohol to minors, rather than punishing the entire community with punitive price increases or increased tax on alcohol,​” said Mott.

He also highlighted the “successes​” of the industry’s own approach to preventing alcohol problems and encouraging responsible drinking.

Related topics: Markets, Beer, Wine, Spirits, Cider

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