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The National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) collects information on alcohol and tobacco consumption, and illicit drug use among the general population in Australia. It also surveys people’s attitudes and perceptions relating to tobacco, alcohol and other drug use. Survey findings relate mainly to people aged 14 years or older.

All increases or decreases described in these key findings are statistically significant at the 95% level of confidence (unless otherwise specified). Where comparisons in figures are indicated with '≈', the change is not statistically significant.

Highlights from the 2016 survey

The 2016 NDSHS show that younger people (aged under 30) were smoking less, drinking less and using fewer illicit drugs in 2016 than in 2001. However, for people in their 40s, 50s and 60s, there was little to no change in drug usage behaviours over this period but their use of some drugs has increased between 2013 and 2016.


2 column charts. The first column chart shows daily tobacco smoking rates have fallen from 19.4% in 2001 to 12.8% in 2013 and 12.2% in 2016. The second column chart shows weekly cigarette consumption fell from 111 in 2001 to 96 in 2013 and 94 in 2016.

Tobacco smoking

  • 12.2% of people aged 14 or over were daily smokers in 2016. While smoking rates have been on a long-term downward trend, for the first time in over two decades, the daily smoking rate did not significantly decline over the most recent 3 year period (2013 to 2016).
  • There were fewer teenagers smoking—the proportion who had never smoked more than 100 cigarettes significantly increased between 2013 and 2016, from 95% to 98%.
  • Younger people continued to delay the take up of smoking—the average age at which 14–24-year-olds smoked their first full cigarette increased from 14.2 years in 1995 to 16.3 in 2016 (a significant increase from 15.9 years in 2013).
  • Smokers smoked fewer cigarettes in 2016 than in 2001—the average number of cigarettes smoked per week declined from 110 to 94 cigarettes. However, there was only a slight reduction between 2013 (96 cigarettes) and 2016 and the decrease was not significant.

Two figures. The first column chart shows the proportion of the population consuming 5 or more alcoholic drinks in a month fell from 29% in 2001 to 26% in 2013 and 25% in 2016. The second timeline shows teen alcohol abstinence rose from 72% in 2013 to 82% in 2016.

Alcohol use

  • Compared to 2013, fewer people in Australia drank alcohol in quantities that exceeded the lifetime risk guidelines in 2016 (17.1%, down from 18.2% in 2013). But there was no change in the proportion exceeding the single occasion risk guideline.
  • Young adults were drinking less—a significantly lower proportion of 18–24 year olds consumed 5 or more standard drinks on a monthly basis (from 47% in 2013 to 42% in 2016).
  • Fewer 12–17 year olds were drinking alcohol and the proportion abstaining from alcohol significantly increased from 2013 to 2016 (from 72% to 82%).
  • However, more people in their 50s were consuming 11 or more standard drinks in one drinking occasion in 2016 than in 2013.
  • Fewer people reported being a victim of an alcohol-related incident; the proportion declined from 26% in 2013 to 22% in 2016.

Two figures. The first is a column chart that shows the proportion of the population who used an illicit drug fell from 16.7% on 2001 to 15.0% in 2013 before rising slightly to 15.6% in 2016. The second is an icon of a newspaper headline board showing a 'METH #1 CONCERN' headline

Illicit use of drugs

  • Declines were seen in recent use of some illegal drugs in 2016 including meth/amphetamines (from 2.1% to 1.4%), hallucinogens (1.3% to 1.0%), and synthetic cannabinoids (1.2% to 0.3%).
  • About 1 in 20 Australians had misused pharmaceuticals in 2016 (4.8%).
  • Crystal/ice methamphetamines continued to be the main form of methamphetamines used in 2016 (was 57% in 2016; up from 22% in 2010 and 50% in 2013). There was a significant decline in recent meth/amphetamine users who used powder as their main form (from 29% in 2013 to 20% in 2016).
  • People’s perceptions of meth/amphetamines changed considerably between 2013 and 2016. Australians now consider meth/amphetamines to be more of concern than any other drug (including alcohol) and a greater number thought of it as the drug that caused the most deaths in Australia. For the first time, meth/amphetamines was the drug most likely to be nominated as a drug problem.
  • More people reported being a victim of an illicit drug-related incident in 2016, increasing from about 1.6 million in 2013 to 1.8 million in 2016.

The survey

The NDSHS has been conducted every 2 to 3 years since 1985. The 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey collected data from nearly 24,000 people across Australia. The survey was conducted from 18 June to 29 November 2016. Roy Morgan Research was commissioned by AIHW to conduct the survey fieldwork.