Alcohol & Your Health

Alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of injury, chronic disease and early death.In Australia, one person dies every 90 minutes from an alcohol-caused disease or injury.23

Alcohol consumption has been linked to a number of short and long-term adverse health outcomes, including:

Alcohol has been ranked the drug that causes the most overall harm in Australia when considering both the harm to those who use alcohol and harm to others.12

Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol

In 2009, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) released the Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol.*

The Guidelines can help you make informed decisions about the amount of alcohol you drink by describing how alcohol can increase your risk of injury, disease and death in both the short and long-term. The Guidelines also provide guidance for women who are pregnant and breastfeeding, and those aged under 18.13

Short-term harm is what may occur as a result of one (single) drinking occasion.

Long-term harm is what may occur as a result of regular drinking over the lifetime.

The Guidelines make four recommendations: 13

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

  • For healthy men and women, drinking no more than two standard drinks on any day reduces the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury.

Guideline 2 - reducing the risk of injury on a single occasion of drinking. 

  • For healthy men and women, drinking no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion reduces the risk of alcohol-related injury arising from that occasion.

Guideline 3 - for children and young people under 18 years of age, not drinking is the safest option.

  • Parents and carers should be advised that children under 15 years of age are at the greatest risk of harm from drinking and that for this age group, not drinking alcohol is especially important.
  • For young people aged 15 to 17 years, the safest option is to delay the initiation of drinking for as long as possible.

Guideline 4 - pregnancy and breastfeeding.

  • For women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, not drinking is the safest option.
  • For women who are breastfeeding, not drinking is the safest option.

What is a standard drink?

See our Standard Drink tool to learn what a standard drinks looks like. You can pour your typical drink to see how many standard drinks you are actually consuming in your glass of wine, beer or spirits.

*The NHMRC Guidelines are currently being updated. Until the new Guidelines are released (expected late 2020), these guidelines remain the NHMRC’s current advice.

1

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2018a). Alcohol overview. Retrieved from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports-data/behaviours-risk-factors/alcohol/overview

2

National Drug Research Institute. (2018). Media release: Alcohol causes nearly 6,000 Australian deaths in one year, a third from cancer.  Retrieved from: http://ndri.curtin.edu.au/news-events/ndri-news/media-release-alcohol-causes-nearly-6,000-australi

3

National Health and Medical Research Council. (2009). Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol. Commonwealth of Australia: Canberra, ACT.

4

Pandeya, N., Wilson, L., Webb, P., Neale, R., Bain, C., & Whiteman, D. (2015). Cancers in Australia in 2010 attributable to the consumption of alcohol. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 39(5), 408-413.

5

Buckman, F., Eddie, D., Vaschillo, E., Vaschillo, B., Garcia, A., & Bates, M. E. (2015). Immediate and complex cardiovascular adaptation to an acute alcohol dose. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 39(12), 2334-2344.

6

Piano, M. (2017). Alcohol’s effect on the cardiovascular system. Alcohol Research, 38(2), 219-241.

7

Duggan, A., & Duggan, J. (2011). Alcoholic liver disease: Assessment and management. Australian Family Physician, 40(8), 591-593.

8

World Health Organization. (2018b). Global status report on alcohol and health 2018. Geneva: WHO.

9

Griswold, M., et al. (2018). Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories,1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016. The Lancet, 392, 1015-35.

10

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2018b). Family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia. Cat no. FDV 2. Canberra: AIHW

11

Fitzpatrick, J., Elliot, E., Latimer, J., Carter, M., Oscar, J., Ferreira, M., … & Hand, M. (2012). The Liliwan Project: study protocol for a population-based active case ascertainment study of the prevalence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) in remote Australian Aboriginal communities. BMJ Open, 2, 1-11.

12

Bonomo, Y., Norman, A., Biondo, S., Bruno, R., Daglish, M., Dawe, S., Egerton-Warburton, D., Karro, J., … & Castle, D. (2019). The Australian drug harms ranking study. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 33(7), 759-768.

13

National Health and Medical Research Council. (2009). Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol. Commonwealth of Australia: Canberra, ACT.

Page last updated: 26 June 2020

This website uses cookies and third-party services.