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Beer drinking is at a 68 year low as Australians go for quality not quantity

Cate Gillon/Getty Images

Australians are drinking less alcohol than at any time in the last 50 years, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

And beer drinking leads the field with consumption per head at its lowest in 68 years.

A half century ago, beer made up three-quarters of all alcohol consumed but now is under 41%.

And lately we’ve been drinking less spirits and wine as well.

Wine is at an eight year low, including red and white wine plus fortifieds such as port and sherry. Spirits drinking is at a 13 year low. Even those pre-mixed drinks are down.

“And while we have the data, we don’t have the reasons for the drop in alcohol consumption,” says Savanth Sebastian, an economist at CommSec.

“It may reflect immigration, greater variety of leisure pursuits, increases in income and wealth (affordability of alcohol is at 20-year highs), diet and lifestyle. And there is the long-run influence of random breath-testing.

“Anecdotally Aussies continue to embrace quality over quantity and the downward trend in alcohol consumption is consistent with the ‘new conservatism’ that has affected Aussie attitudes on financial matters.”

Commsec says lower alcohol consumption has implications for government coffers in terms of excise revenue. It also has implications for liquor retailers, cafes, restaurants, clubs, Coles and Woolworths.

Cider is the only alcohol category seeing a rise. It’s only 2% of the total but that’s about twice as much as five years ago.

And how much alcohol do we each drink on average?

Total consumption of alcohol fell for the seventh year in a row, down from 9.88 litres of pure alcohol per person to 9.71 litres. With a standard drink at 12.5 ml of pure alcohol, this means we’re drinking an average of 2.2 standard drinks per day for those aged 15 years and over.

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