Australians are considered to consume large quantities of alcohol, with many drinking at harmful levels, including adolescents and young adults.
While research indicates that alcohol consumption is decreasing in some age groups, alcohol-related harm remains a significant social and health issue within Australian society.
Physical health issues associated with high-risk alcohol consumption
- Cardiovascular disease
- Weight gain and obesity
- Liver diseases
- Cognitive impairment/alcohol-related brain injury
- Nutrition-related conditions
Mental health issues associated with high-risk alcohol consumption
Alcohol is responsible for a significant proportion of suicides globally, and risky drinking has been linked to both depression and anxiety, as well as to a reduction in the effectiveness of psychiatric medicines.
Consequences of excessive alcohol consumption
Drinking and recovery from alcoholism can be socially isolating and impact heavily upon relationships.
Positive relationships may breakdown as a consequence of alcohol abuse.
Additionally, individuals in recovery may need to break ties or set firm boundaries with drinking friends when sober, which may add to the challenge of quitting alcohol.
Additional consequences include:
- • Alcohol-related incidents, including verbal abuse, physical abuse, domestic violence, as well as property damage and vandalism
- • Drink driving causing accidents, injury and/or death
- • Non-vehicular accidents and injuries
- • Financial repercussion, including loss of income through loss of job
Who is at risk?
Anyone can develop high-risk drinking behaviours and/or alcohol dependence; however, high-risk drinking has been found to be more prevalent among young men aged 18-29, individuals who identify as LGBTI, people with mental illnesses and Indigenous Australians6. Peer pressure around alcohol is a significant risk factor for teenagers, with parental and sibling drinking behaviour playing a significant role. However, Australian drinking culture also results in peer pressure for adults which can also impact upon the decisions they make regarding alcohol.
What is safe alcohol consumption?
No level of alcohol consumption is completely safe. However, the Australian government recommends that healthy men and women should consume no more than two standard drinks on any day to reduce the risk of alcohol-related harm.
It is recommended that pregnant and breastfeeding women and individuals under the age of 18 abstain from alcohol completely.
Young people under the age of 15 are deemed to be at the greatest risk of alcohol-related harm.
What is a standard drink?
- • 375ml of mid strength beer
- • 100ml of wine
- • 30ml of high strength spirits
*In Australia all alcoholic beverages purchased at a liquor store are required by law to clearly state their alcohol content on the label.
If you are concerned about your own or someone else’s drinking behaviours speak to your GP who can provide further advice and/or refer you to appropriate services. Treatment for alcohol dependence may involve medications, counselling, support groups and/or a residential treatment program.
Australian Medical Association. (2012). Alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harms – 2012. Retrieved from
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2014). National Drug Strategy Household Survey detailed report 2013.’
Retrieved from http://www.aihw.gov.au/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=60129549848
National health and Medical Research Council. (2015). Alcohol guidelines: Reducing the health risk. Retrieved
World Health Organisation. (2014). Mental health: A state of wellbeing.
Retrieved from http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/mental_health/mental_health_facts/en/
Where do I go for help?
Mental Health Information Line
1300 794 991
Anxiety Disorders Information Line
1300 794 992
Your local doctor (GP)
Translating & Interpreting Service
(TIS) 131 450
Please call the Mental Health Information Line through the Telephone Interpreter Service (TIS). Free to Australian citizens or permanent residents.
This information is for educational purposes. As neither brochures nor websites can diagnose people it is always important to obtain professional advice and/or help when needed.
This information may be reproduced with an acknowledgement to WayAhead – Mental Health Association.
The Association encourages feedback and welcomes comments about the information provided.