One in five Australians don’t know that alcohol is a harmful substance. Young Australians are at an especially high risk since they are not linking illness or physical harm with alcohol, according to a new survey.

The Alcohol and Drug Foundation polled about 1000 Australians to find out about their awareness level regarding alcohol harm. The findings have caused alarm for public health in the country.

  • One in five Australians were still unaware of the harms caused by the products and practices of the alcohol industry.
  • Youth were specifically unaware of these harms. 29% of 18 to 24-year-olds and 25% of 25 to 29-year-olds, did not link alcohol with illness or injury.
  • More than half of those polled had no idea what a standard unit of alcohol meant.
  • Most were unsure or had very little awareness about low-risk alcohol use guidelines.

The updated Australian low-risk alcohol guidelines released by the National Health and Medical Research Council clearly state that there is no safe level for alcohol use. If a person is consuming alcohol the guidelines recommend 10 or fewer standard units of alcohol per week with no more than four units per occasion to reduce risk. A standard unit of alcohol in Australia is 10g of alcohol of any kind. The guidelines are clear that children under the age of 18, those who are pregnant or breast-feeding should not have any alcohol.

Young people’s lack of recognition of the real harm of alcohol is specifically worrying. With the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, reportedly 27% of 18 to 24-year-olds youth are consuming more alcohol than ever.

Alcohol contributes to all the leading causes of death for young people; suicide, land transport accidents, accidental poisoning, and assault,” said Dr. Erin Lalor, CEO of Alcohol and Drug Foundation, as per Sunshine Coast News.

Dr. Erin Lalor, CEO, Alcohol and Drug Foundation

Alcohol policy and harm in Australia

© WHO Global Alcohol Status Report 2018

As the World Health Organization reports, the per capita alcohol consumption in Australia is above the Western Pacific Regional average at 10.6 liters. Binge alcohol use among youth (15 to 19 years) who use alcohol is also high, with over half (56.2%) engaging in this harmful behavior. Further alcohol is causing over 4000 deaths in Australia.

Recently in a different survey of 1500 Australians, the Cancer Council found similar levels of lacking awareness among Australians regarding alcohol’s cancer risk. Only one in five Australians knew alcohol causes cancer.

But more than 2500 cancer deaths are due to alcohol every year in Australia.

The country’s national alcohol policy response should be improved, according to the WHO country profile from 2018. Alcohol availability and marketing should be much better regulated in order to protect people better from harms.

The Cancer Council will be rolling out a public health awareness advertising campaign to increase Australian’s recognition of alcohol’s cancer risk.

The council is now rolling out an advertising campaign on digital platforms in Victoria, Australia to promote the national alcohol guidelines, which were introduced in December 2020. The campaign, named Spread, shows how alcohol can trigger cells to mutate when it spreads through the body.


Sunshine Coast News: “Research: Australians don’t know what’s a standard drink, or understand their limits

Alcohol and Drug Foundation: “Australian alcohol guidelines