Australian women are catching up with men when it comes to drinking

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Doctors say Australians are drinking more each day despite official numbers indicating we’re consuming less alcohol than at any time in the last 50 years.

And, according to the latest analysis of official statistics published in the Medical Journal of Australia, women are catching up with men on the amount they’re drinking and 15 to 19-year-olds are downing significantly more than adults.

Professor Farhat Yusuf and Emeritus Professor Stephen Leeder, from the Menzies Centre for Health Policyat the University of Sydney, compared data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ National Health Surveys in 2001 and 2011-2012.

Previous Australian Bureau of Statistics numbers showing drinking at its lowest point in half a century comes from a raw average in the year 2013-14 — 9.7 litres of pure alcohol for every person in Australia aged 15 years and over. That is the lowest for 50 years.

However, this latest analysis looks over ten years at age bands, daily consumption in terms of standard drinks and the differences between men and women.

And this found that the average daily alcohol intake increased between the two surveys by 13%, from a mean of 3.9 standard drinks in 2001 to 4.3 in 2011–2012.

For men, that is 5 standard drinks a day, up from 4.7, and for women its 3.4 drinks a day from 2.8.

“While women consumed much less alcohol than men in each survey, the gender gap had narrowed,” write Yusuf and Leeder.

Women consumed 40% less alcohol than men in 2001 but only 33% less during 2011–2012.

The average daily consumption over days recorded for those aged 15–19 years was 7.1 standard drinks. That’s 65% higher than the average for adults of 4.3 standard drinks.

The data also revealed that “tertiary qualifications, employment and white-collar occupations were associated with lower daily levels of alcohol consumption”.

“Relatively disadvantaged people reported higher consumption levels, and they also spent a somewhat larger proportion of their household budget on alcohol.”

Among those 18 years of age or older, 29.2% of men and 10.1% of women had exceeded the 2009 National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines for “safe levels”.

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