What are Australia’s alcohol consumption guidelines?

Australia’s guidelines in relation to alcohol are developed by an expert committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). The most recent guidelines were released in 2009. There are four guidelines for reducing the health risks associated with drinking alcohol:

Guideline 1: Reducing the risk of alcohol-related harm over a lifetime.

The more alcohol people consume, the greater their long-term risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury. Healthy adults should drink no more than two standard drinks on any day to reduce the long-term risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury.

Guideline 2: Reducing the risk of injury on a single occasion of drinking.

The more alcohol people consume on a single occasion of drinking, the greater their short-term risk of alcohol-related injury. Healthy adults should drink no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion to reduce the short-term risk of alcohol-related injury.

Guideline 3: Children and young people under 18 years of age.

To reduce their risk of harm, children and young people under 18 years of age should not drink alcohol. This is particularly important for children under 15 years of age, who are at the greatest risk of harm from drinking alcohol. For young people aged 15-17 years, it is safest to delay the start of drinking for as long as possible.

Guideline 4: Pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Drinking alcohol while pregnant or breastfeeding can harm the developing foetus/breastfed baby. For women who are pregnant, planning a pregnancy, or breastfeeding, not drinking is the safest option.

A copy of the complete guidelines is available from theNational Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

Source: National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) (2009). Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol.

Long-Term Risk of Alcohol-Related Disease or Injury: An individual’s risk of experiencing alcohol-related harm during their lifetime, e.g. from alcohol-related chronic disease, accident or injury.  Current Australian alcohol guidelines state that long-term risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury increases when you consume an average of three or more drinks per day.

Short-Term Risk of Alcohol-Related Injury: An individual’s risk of experiencing alcohol-related harm on a single occasion of drinking, e.g. from alcohol-related accident or injury. Current Australian alcohol guidelines state that drinking five or more standard drinks on any single occasion significantly increases short-term risk of alcohol-related injury.

Single Occasion of Drinking: Any time a person consumes one or more drinks containing alcohol, and during this period of time their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) does not return to zero.

Standard Drink: A drink that contains 10 grams (or 12.5 millilitres) of alcohol.