One In Five Australians Drink More Than Recommended, And Most Don't Realise It

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Two new studies on Australian drinking habits take a detailed look at factors determining what is a heavy drinker and what type of people they are.

For a start, about one in five drink more than they should and four in five don’t know what drinking to excess means.

One of the studies, looks at common characteristics of Australian drinkers:

Being male, unmarried and in poor health increase the risk of excessive drinking.

And so does being young as long as you’ve got a high income (at least $700 per week) and were born Australia.

Accessibility also plays a role. More hotels and clubs in your area increases the risk of harm from alcohol.

And if your local area has a lot of doctors, the odds are that your suburb has more heavy drinkers.

“This may reflect that communities with more GPs and with higher average disposable incomes may drink more frequently,” says Courtney Breen of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of NSW.

The odds of risky drinking in the short term are lower for those born overseas.

And communities with a higher proportion of indigenous Australians had a significantly lower proportion of short-term risky drinkers.

Dr Breen says this is consistent with other research showing that a higher proportion of indigenous Australians do not drink alcohol.

However, those who do drink are more likely to have substantial alcohol-related problems.

She says this is important because focusing on marginalised groups is unlikely to reduce the proportion of short-term risky drinkers in their community

The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health today also looks at whether Australians pay attention to drinking guidelines.

And speaking of guidelines, four out of five people don’t have a clue what’s the recommended daily intake of alcohol for men.

For the record: men should drink no more than four standard drinks per day on average; and women, no more than two.

And have one or two alcohol-free days per week.

Jacqueline Bowden, of the Cancer Council South Australia, and her colleagues looked at whether people had got the message on alcohol guidelines and whether people knew of the link to cancer.

She found an average 21.6% of adults drank in excess of the guidelines with men at 33.0% and women at 10.7%.

While 53.5% correctly identified the consumption threshold for women, only 20.3% did so for men (39% nominated a higher amount).

Only one-third (36.6%) saw alcohol as an important risk factor for cancer.

The total cost of alcohol use in Australia has been estimated as $15.3 billion per year.

In addition, consumption has been linked to more than 60 medical conditions in Australia with estimates suggesting that it causes 3,430 deaths per year.

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