While many Australians associate the coming weeks of Christmas parties, Boxing Day barbecues and New Year’s Eve events with always having a drink in your hand, new stats from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that Australians are actually drinking less. Sections of the media and health academics are telling us we’re in the grip of an alcohol epidemic, with binge drinking out of control, drunken violence making our streets unsafe, irresponsible alcohol ads encouraging kids to get drunk and alcohol causing [inserted some made-up number here]% of all deaths.
But as Crikey has regularly reported over the years, this is rubbish: Australians drink less than a few years ago and dramatically less than a couple of decades ago, violent crime has fallen significantly in recent years and the health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption have been regularly demonstrated. So we weren’t exactly surprised that data this week from the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ National Health Survey about alcohol consumption wasn’t given much coverage. The survey found that 17.4% of adults drank more than two standard drinks per day on average, down from 19.5% of adults in 2011-12.
In fact, that figure has been declining since 2004-05. The proportion of adults engaging in “risky drinking” (set as more than four standard drinks on any one occasion) has also fallen since 2011-12, from 44.7% to 44%. And for those worried about binge-drinking kids, “two-thirds (66.2%) of all 15-17 year olds had never consumed alcohol, an increase from 2011-12 when around half (49.1%) of all 15-17 year olds had never consumed alcohol”. So even if we may over-do it over the next month, it’s safe in the knowledge that the country as a whole is drinking less.