Most alcohol drunk in risky way – by older people

glass of alcohol (red wine) being poured

More than half of the alcohol drunk in Australia is drunk in a way that is outside the recommended guidelines of two Australian standard drinks per day, a new study has found

A study of drinking patterns found that while only 28% of us drink at levels above two per day, this group is drinking 84% of the total alcohol consumed. And it’s middle-aged people whose drinking behaviours may be the most risky.

The study, conducted by researchers from La Trobe University, Monash University and The University of Melbourne and published in Drug and Alcohol Review, found that proportionally, liqueurs and cask wines were the drinks most often consumed at risky levels.

However the greater popularity of beer, bottled wine and spirits meant that they had larger number of drinks consumed above the guidelines.

2020 Australian adults with an oversampling of risky drinkers were asked detailed questions about how much alcohol they consumed at a range of locations in 2013. Descriptive statistical analyses of data weighted to be representative of the Australian adult population were then undertaken.

While the researchers said that the relationship with long-term risk was “murky,” the proportion of alcohol units consumed outside the guidelines peaked in 35 to 54-year-olds in both men and women.

“35% of all drinks consumed by women aged 55 years and over were drunk to outside of the LTR guidelines, compared with 66% of drinks consumed by men aged 35 to 54 years,” the authors note.

“The proportion of both men and women who drank to long-term risk was higher in this study than previously reported from research with consumption measured by graduated frequency measures: 35% and 20% of men and women, respectively, in this study, compared with 29% and 12% in the 2010 NDSHS.

“While 28% of respondents drank to LTR, they accounted for 84% of the total consumption, and their drinking beyond the guidelines constituted over half (56%) of the total consumption.

“While we commonly hear that the majority of Australians do drink in a responsible manner, and indeed our analysis does nothing to suggest that this is not the case, it might be worth also looking at the proportion of alcohol consumed in an unhealthy manner when discussing alcohol policy and health promotion in Australia.

“There is an abundance of both research and media coverage related to short-term risky drinking, particularly young people drinking in licensed premises.

“While the harms from short-term risky drinking are indeed considerable, the long-term harms from excessive alcohol consumption are also substantial, and our research indicates that long-term risky drinking is not limited to younger drinkers or licensed premises.

“Instead, most of the alcohol consumed outside of the LTR guidelines is consumed outside of licensed premises, and the proportion of all alcohol being consumed in a high-risk fashion is highest in drinkers aged 35–54 years.

“With consumption in younger drinkers decreasing, more research on unhealthy off-premise consumption, particularly in those aged over 35 years, is required.”

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