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Research: Australians don't know what's a standard drink, or understand their limits

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One in five Australians are still ignorant of the harms caused by drinking alcohol, with young people especially oblivious to the risks.

New research by the Alcohol and Drug Foundation concludes that young Australians are of particular concern as they are not making a link between alcohol and illness or physical harm.

More than half of 1000 Australians polled by the foundation last week didn’t know what a standard drink was and most were unsure, or only had some idea, of the recommended alcohol they should be consuming per day or week.

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CEO Dr Erin Lalor says new guidelines released by the National Health and Medical Research Council are clear — drinking at any level contains some risk.

Yet over 20 per cent of Australians don’t associate any harm with drinking alcohol.

“The less you drink, the lower your risk of harm such as injuries, illnesses, dependence and diseases like cancer,” Dr Lalor said.

Twenty-nine per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds the foundation surveyed and 25 per cent of 25 to 29-year-olds, did not associate alcohol with illness or injury.

With eased COVID restrictions, younger Australians polled are now drinking more than they were last year.

Over a quarter (27 per cent) of 18 to 24-year-olds are now drinking more since COVID lockdowns.

“Younger Australians are vulnerable to alcohol-related harm,” Dr Lalor said.

“Alcohol contributes to all the leading causes of death for young people; suicide, land transport accidents, accidental poisoning, and assault.

“Alcohol causes significant harm across Australia, including nearly 4200 alcohol-related deaths each year.”

The NHMR guidelines recommend:

  • To reduce the risk of cancer including breast, stomach and bowel, keep it to 10 or fewer standard drinks a week. Have no more than 4 standard drinks in one day to reduce your risk of injury and accidents.
  • Anyone under the age of 18 should not drink any alcohol to help prevent injury and other harms to their health
  • Women who are planning a pregnancy, are pregnant or breastfeeding should not drink alcohol, as it’s safest for the health of their baby.

“A standard drink contains 10 grams of pure alcohol,” Dr Lalor said.

“The type of alcohol makes no difference; 10 grams of alcohol is 10 grams of alcohol, whether it is in beer, wine or spirits.”

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