Figures from the ABS are at their lowest since 1961-62

Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) have found Australia’s average rate of alcohol consumption is at its lowest since the ‘60s.

Here’s why.

The findings

To determine the average drinking rate across the nation, the ABS measured the amount of pure alcohol consumed by Australians (aged 15 years and over) over the course of a year. To put this into perspective, a ‘standard drink’ contains 12.5 ml of pure alcohol.

The results found in 2016-17, Australia consumed 186 million litres of alcohol, or an average of 9.4 litres for each adult.

The ABS then split alcohol sale and consumption into five main categories – beer, wine, spirits, cider and pre-mixed drinks.

For an average adult, 9.4 litres of alcohol across these categories equates to:

  • 224 stubbies of beer
  • 38 bottles of wine
  • 4 bottles of spirits
  • 17 bottles of cider
  • 33 cans of pre-mixed drinks.

How have the figures lowered?

According to Louise Gates, ABS Director of Health Statistics, a fall in beer consumption may be the reason behind the low figures we’re seeing.

“Over three-quarters of alcohol consumed was from either beer (39 per cent) or wine (38 per cent),” Ms Gates said.

“And while alcohol consumed from wine has declined recently, the drop in beer consumption has been the main driver for falling alcohol consumption, with an average decline of 2.4 per cent per year over the last 10 years.”

Dr Paul Grinzi who has a special interest in addiction medicine also believes cost consideration and increasing awareness of alcohol-related harm are contributing factors to lower consumption levels among younger people.

“We’ve seen it with tobacco; taxation and cost is certainly a driver of behaviour so I think that’s not surprising,” Dr Grinzi said.

“There’s also a higher awareness of the ubiquitous nature of alcohol-related harms in our society, on a social and psychological level and also the physical harms … especially through social media, which I think is more penetrating these days, in terms of the younger market.”

Although it’s nice to hear the average rate of alcohol consumption is lowering across Australia, rates of illicit drug use appear to be increasing.

“Certainly in the younger population, we’re seeing a lot more [illicit] drug use, so probably less of the heroin, cocaine stuff, and more of the stimulants and so-called party drugs,” Dr Grinzi said.