The the National Medical Health and Research Council (NHMRC) has updated their alcohol guidelines which aim to reduce risk from alcohol consumption among Australians.
The new guidelines highlight the negative effects of alcohol during pregnancy.
Communities have welcomed the revised guidelines as a step in the right direction for reducing Australian alcohol harm.

After being revised the NHMRC guidelines on alcohol stand as follows:

Guideline 1: Reducing the risk of alcohol-related harm for adults 

  • To reduce the risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury, healthy men and women should consume no more than 10 standard units of alcohol a week and no more than 4 standard units of alcohol on any one day.
  • The less you consume, the lower your risk of harm from alcohol.

Guideline 2: Children and people under 18 years of age 

  • To reduce the risk of injury and other harms to health, children and people under 18 years of age should not consume alcohol.

Guideline 3: Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding

  • A. To prevent harm from alcohol to their unborn child, women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy should not consume alcohol.
  • B. For women who are breastfeeding, not consuming alcohol is safest for their baby.

It has already been scientifically proven that no amount of alcohol is safe and completely risk-free for consumption. Governments issue guidelines for alcohol use to reduce population risk of alcohol-related harm. The NHMRC guidelines were prepared through a robust three-year scientific process involving leading researchers and experts.

As Movendi International has reported before, the alcohol industry has been aggressively lobbying against updating the guidelines in Australia in fear of greater awareness would affect alcohol consumption and thus reduce their profits. The Australian government has withstood the industry onslaught and prevailed in introducing scientifically proven and accurate guidelines.

Updated guidelines and community funding for awareness raising

The Australian government is also funding the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) to run a campaign on Guideline 3 regarding alcohol’s risks during pregnancy. This guideline is very clear that those who are pregnant should not consume alcohol reflecting the evidence which shows that no amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy.

Alcohol exposure in pregnancy can lead to a host of issues such as miscarriage, low birth weight, still birth and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Scientific evidence suggests that globally an estimated eight out of every 1000 children have FASD. The Prevalence of FASD among children and youth in the general population exceeds 1% in 76 countries. These findings underscore the need for prevention initiatives such as the campaign funded by the Australian government.

It is great to see a strong commitment from the Australian Government and Health Minister, the Hon Greg Hunt, to raising awareness of the alcohol, pregnancy and breastfeeding Guideline,” said Caterina Giorgi, CEO of FARE, as per the FARE website.

This awareness raising will contribute to a reduction in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, a lifelong condition.”

Caterina Giorgi, CEO, FARE

Hello Sunday Morning has also welcomed the new guidelines. Hello Sunday Morning (HSM) is an Australian not-for-profit organisation with the mission to help people reduce or quit alcohol use, and to provide them with the tools for doing that.

HSM emphasizes that a key recommendation of the improved Guidelines was that adults should consume no more than 10 standard drinks of alcohol in a week (down from 14 in the previous guidelines), and no more than four alcoholic drinks in any one day.

The improved Guidelines nearly double the number of adult alcohol users (from 12% to 22%) who are considered to be using alcohol heavily – based on FARE’s Annual Alcohol Polls of ​2019 ​and ​2020.

Therefore, HSM is calling on the Federal Government to ensure these revised guidelines are backed with appropriate support for people classified as high risk alcohol users. One such measure of support would be ensuring services such as the ​Daybreak​ smartphone app are available to more Australians who need direct support in reducing their alcohol use to the recommended levels.

These guidelines are based on the most recent and best available evidence on the health effects of alcohol consumption. Alcohol-related harm – physically or mentally – is a significant burden on Australians, their families and communities,” said Andy Moore, CEO of Hello Sunday Morning.

We believe these recommendations also highlight the need for Government support of programs that seek to address Australians in their quest to [change how they use alcohol].”

Andy Moore, CEO, Hello Sunday Morning

The Daybreak​ app is accessible to anyone with a smartphone and available whenever someone wishes to seek help, often within the comfort of their own home. It offers support from both peers and professionals. It is designed to help people achieve their alcohol change goals via a supportive and non-judgemental online community. Nearly 60,000 Australians have used the app-based program since 2016, and the Department of Health has subsidised their full registration costs since 2018.

The bigger picture

Australia has been making progress on measures to address alcohol risk during pregnancy. The Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ)’s proposed pregnancy warning label was accepted by the Australian and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation in July 2020. Australia is currently in a two year transition period afforded the alcohol industry to update their labeling.


NHMRC: “Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol

FARE: “FARE welcomes updated National Alcohol Guidelines