Alcohol is the most widely used drug in Australia. It is a major cause of preventable injury, accidents, disease and death.
Harms from alcohol not only impact the individual, but families, friends, and the wider community.
Who drinks alcohol in Australia?
- Around 77% of adults drink alcohol.
- 23% do not drink alcohol.
- In 2019, the proportion of ex‑drinkers increased significantly from 7.6% in 2016 to 8.9% in 2019 (AIHW 2020, Table 3.1)
- The proportion of the population aged 14 and over who consumed alcohol daily declined significantly between 2016 (6.0%) and 2019 (5.4%) (AIHW 2020, Table 3.1).
- 1 in 3 adults (33%) who drink alcohol drink at levels that exceed the Australian Alcohol Guidelines and put them at risk of alcohol-related disease or injury.
- More young people in WA are choosing not to drink alcohol. Over the last 20 years, alcohol use among young people aged 12 to 17 years old has significantly decreased (from 74% in 1999 to 41% in 2017).
- While fewer young people are drinking, of those who reported drinking in the last week, 1 in 3 drank at levels considered high-risk for adults.
Harm from alcohol is preventable
Some harms are very visible, others are hidden (or take time to become visible).
Visible harms include alcohol-fuelled violence, injuries, and road crashes.
- 42 people died on WA roads in 2020 where the driver was suspected to be under the influence of alcohol, or the primary cause of the crash included alcohol.
- WA has one of the highest rates of emergency department presentations due to alcohol in the country, with 1 in 5 emergency department presentations on Saturday nights being due to alcohol.
- More than 1 person dies each week by suicide related to alcohol in WA. In 2019, an estimated 58 people died by suicide related to alcohol.
- 21% of drownings in Western Australia occur due to alcohol.
Hidden harms include the contribution to family violence, cancer and chronic disease, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, and impacts on mental health.
- 360 West Australians die from diseases caused by alcohol each year.
- 180 family violence assaults are related to alcohol use each week in WA.
- Alcohol will contribute to an estimated 249,700 cases of cancer over the lifetime of Australians who were adults in 2016.
Page last updated31 May 2023