Are You Drinking Too Much?
Whether it’s a few beers at the pub with your mates, a nice bottle of wine over dinner, or a couple of cheeky espresso martinis, many Australians enjoy a bit of a drink. However, you may be surprised to learn what the recommended level of alcohol intake is to ensure you do not get any serious health consequences from your drinking.
Alcohol Consumption in Australia
Alcohol is one of the most widely consumed drugs in Australia. Approximately 81% of Australians aged over 18 consume alcohol, and approximately 20% consume more alcohol than is recommended by the lifetime risk guidelines. This is especially common in men, with up to 1 in 4 Australian men (25.8%) drinking at a level which is considered unsafe.
In addition, binge-drinking is a particularly common habit in Australia. According to a study by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, approximately 45% of Australians had drunk more alcohol than is recommended in a single sitting in the last 12 months, a figure which rose to around 65% for 18-24 year olds.
What are the risks of unsafe alcohol consumption?
Alcohol is potentially dangerous in the short and long-term.
Short-term risks are related to the risks that come with intoxication, such as impaired decision-making and awareness. They include:
Injuries/Death: Alcohol is a factor in 60% of fatal burn injuries and drownings, 50% of severe traumatic injuries and 40% of fatal car accidents and falls.
Assault: Alcohol plays a role in 60% of homicides and 50% of sexual assaults
Emotional issues: alcohol can cause arguments and discord between friends, partners and family. Alcohol has also been shown to play a role in 40% of suicides.
Alcohol toxicity: extreme alcohol intake can lead to blackouts, loss of consciousness, coma and death
Long-term risks are related to the damage long-term alcohol intake can to do your organs. Risks include:
How Much is Too Much?
You may be surprised to learn how low the recommended safe amount of alcohol intake is. Evidence suggests that you should not drink on average more than 2 standard drinks per day (to avoid long-term damage), and that you should not drink more than 4 standard drinks per drinking session (to avoid short-term risks).
It is important than one standard drink does not always mean one glass! For example, a pint of full-strength beer is usually around 1.6 standard drinks, and a restaurant pour of wine is usually 1.4-1.6 standard drinks. All drinks should have a symbol on the side of the bottle telling you how many standard drinks it is.
Should I Cut Back?
While most people can enjoy a good drink now and again, if you find that you’re drinking more than the guidelines suggest it may be worth considering whether you may need to cut back.
Consider the following questions:
Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
Have you ever felt annoyed by other people commenting on/criticizing your drinking habits?
Have you ever felt guilty about your drinking?
Do you every have a drink early in the morning to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover?
If you answered yes to one or more of those questions, it may be worth visiting your GP to discuss ways to cut back on your drinking.
If you are interested in learning more about this topic, feel free to book an appointment with one of our friendly doctors by booking online or contacting us by phone on 8269 6000.
ADAI Library. 2018. Substance Use Screening & Assessment Instruments Database. [ONLINE] Available at: http://lib.adai.washington.edu/instruments/. [Accessed 24 April 2018]
National Health and Medical Research Council. 2018. Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/health-topics/alcohol-guidelines. [Accessed 24 April 2018].
DrugAbuse.com. 2018. Alcohol Effects | Short Term, Long Term & Side Effects . [ONLINE] Available at: https://drugabuse.com/library/the-effects-of-alcohol-use/. [Accessed 24 April 2018].
National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. 2018. What are the risks? – Rethinking Drinking – NIAAA . [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/How-much-is-too-much/Whats-the-harm/What-Are-The-Risks.aspx. [Accessed 24 April 2018].
Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2018. 4364.0.55.001 – National Health Survey: First Results, 2014-15. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/Lookup/by%20Subject/4364.0.55.001~2014-15~Main%20Features~Alcohol%20consumption~25. [Accessed 24 April 2018]
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