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Note: The National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) 2016 key findings report (1 June 2017) may show preliminary figures different to those used in this section.

1 in 5

(18.2%) people consumed alcohol at levels placing them at lifetime risk of an alcohol-related disease or injury.


(26%) of people had consumed alcohol at levels placing them at risk of harm on a single occasion, at least monthly.

Sparkline shows increase from 64% to 72%


of 12–17 year olds reported abstaining from alcohol in 2013—a significant increase from 64% in 2010.

Sparkline shows decrease from 29% to 26%.

1 in 4

(26%) of Australians aged 14 and over reported being a victim of an alcohol-related incident in 2013. This has declined from 29% in 2010.

Stacked bar chart shows 32% alcohol, 23% amphetamines, 23% cannabis, 6% heroin and 17% other.


of drug treatment episodes in 2015–16 were primarily for alcohol, making it the most commonly treated drug in Australia.

4 in 10

(43%) people thought that excessive use of alcohol is the drug issue that is of the most concern to the general community in 2013—similar to 2010 (42%).

New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland

reported significant declines in the proportion drinking alcohol in risky quantities—both lifetime and single occasion risk significantly declined between 2010 and 2013.

About alcohol

The consumption of alcohol is widespread within Australia and entwined with many social and cultural activities. However, harmful levels of consumption are a major health issue, associated with increased risk of chronic disease, injury and premature death (see Risk factors to health) [1].

The harmful use of alcohol has both short-term and long-term health effects. In the short term, effects are mainly related to potential injury of the drinker and/or others affected by the drinker's behaviour [6]. Over the longer term, harmful drinking may result in alcohol dependence and other chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, cirrhosis of the liver, types of dementia, mental health problems and various cancers [1]. Excessive drinking can impair judgment and coordination, and contributes to crime, violence, anti-social behaviours and accidents. Alcohol use during pregnancy is associated with severe adverse perinatal outcomes, such as foetal alcohol syndrome and alcohol-related birth defects and developmental disorders.

In 2011, alcohol use was responsible for 5.1% of the total burden of disease and injury in Australia [2]. It was estimated that 28% of road traffic injury burden (motor vehicle occupants only), 24% of chronic liver disease burden and 23% of the burden of suicide and self-inflicted injuries were attributable to alcohol use. In 2013–14, there were 66,000 hospital separations in Australia with a principal diagnosis of alcohol [3].

The overall volume of alcohol consumed in Australia was 9.7 litres of pure alcohol per person in 2013–14, the lowest level since 1962–63 [9]. Australian's consume a higher number of litres of alcohol, per person, annually, than the OECD average (9.9 and 8.8 in 2013, respectively) and we are in the middle third among 34 OECD countries [7].

In 2004–05, the cost to the Australian community of alcohol-related social problems such as crime, road accidents or lost workplace productivity, was estimated to be $15.3 billion [5]. In 2013, around 7.5 million absentee days were taken due to alcohol use, costing Australia over $2 billion in lost workplace productivity [8].

Australian governments have had strategies to minimise alcohol-related harm in place for a number of decades. These include:

  • legislation (such as placing restrictions on the times and places that alcohol can be purchased)
  • taxation on alcoholic products
  • regulating promotion and advertising
  • providing education and information
  • supporting treatment programs (ANPHA 2014).

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) provides guidelines about alcohol use to help Australians make an informed choice in reducing their health risks from alcohol. The most recent version of these guidelines, Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol, was released in 2009.

Alcohol data sources

National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS)

Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services (AODTS)

Access alcohol data


  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2014. Australia's health 2014. Australia's health series no. 14. Cat. no. AUS 178. Canberra: AIHW.
  2. AIHW 2016a. Australian Burden of Disease Study: impact and causes of illness and death in Australia 2011. Australian Burden of Disease Study series no. 3. Cat. no. BOD 4. Canberra: AIHW.
  3. AIHW 2016b. Drug related hospitalisations. Viewed 12 August 2016.
  4. Australian National Preventive Health Agency (ANPHA) 2014. Alcohol advertising: the effectiveness of current regulatory codes in addressing community concern. ANPHA: Canberra
  5. Collins D & Lapsley H 2008. The costs of tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug abuse to Australian society in 2004–05. National Drug Strategy Monograph Series no. 66. Canberra: Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing.
  6. Laslett AM, Room R & Ferris J 2011. Surveying the range and magnitude of alcohol's harm to others in Australia. Addiction 106(9): 1603-1611.
  7. OECD 2015. Health at a glance 2015: OECD indicators. Paris: OECD.
  8. Roche A, Pidd K, Kostadinov V 2015. Alcohol and drug-related absenteeism: a costly problem. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. DOI: 10.1111/1753-6405.12414.
  9. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2015, Apparent Consumption of Alcohol, Australia, 2013–14. ABS cat. no. 4307.0.55.001. Canberra: ABS.