• Print

Alcohol is consumed widely in Australia. However, harmful levels of consumption are a major health issue, associated with increased risk of chronic disease, injury and premature death (AIHW 2014).

The harmful use of alcohol has both short-term and long-term health effects. In the short term, the effects are mainly related to injury of the drinker or others that the drinker's behaviour affected (Laslett, Room & Ferris 2011). With its ability to impair judgment and coordination, excessive drinking contributes to crime, violence, anti-social behaviours and accidents. 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 (AIHW 2014).

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 (Collins & Lapsley 2008). In 2010, alcohol use was estimated to be responsible for 2.7% of the total burden of disease and injury in Australasia (IHME 2014).

The Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy recommended a number of strategies to reduce alcohol harms: demand reduction strategies to prevent the uptake of excessive alcohol consumption; supply reduction strategies to control and manage the supply of alcohol; and harm reduction strategies to reduce alcohol-related harm for individuals, families and communities (MCDS 2011).

In this chapter, information is presented on: changes to alcohol use over time; age and sex comparisons; type of alcohol consumed; measures undertaken to reduce consumption; and the health and harms associated with alcohol use. Results presented about the risks associated with alcohol intake are based on the 2009 Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol and are reported against Guideline 1 (lifetime risk) and Guideline 2 (single occasion risk). See Box 4.1 for more details.

Please refer to Chapter 8 'Specific population groups' for information on alcohol use among: Indigenous people; pregnant women; people who identified as being homosexual/bisexual; people with mental health conditions; and geographical breakdowns.

All data presented in this chapter are available through the online alcohol tables.

Key findings

Current use and trends

  • In 2013, about four-fifths of Australians aged 14 or older reported they had consumed alcohol in the past year and 6.5% drank on a daily basis.
  • A lower proportion of Australians aged 14 or older consumed alcohol in risky quantities in 2013 compared to 2010— the proportion of lifetime risky drinkers and single occasion risky drinkers declined.
  • Almost 1 in 5 (18.2%) people aged 14 or older consumed more than 2 standard drinks per day on average, exceeding the lifetime risk guidelines.
  • More than 1 in 3 (38%) people aged 14 or older reported they had, on at least 1 occasion in the previous 12 months, consumed alcohol at a level placing them at risk of injury and 1 in 4 had done so as often as monthly (26%).
  • In 2013, around 1 in 6 (15.6%) people aged 12 or older had consumed 11 or more standard drinks on a single drinking occasion in the past 12 months, a lower proportion than 2010 (16.8%).
  • About half (49%) of drinkers took action to reduce their alcohol intake in 2013 and the main reason for doing this was due to concern for their health.

Age comparisons

  • The proportion of people aged 14 or older choosing to abstain from alcohol rose between 2010 and 2013 (from 19.9% to 22%) and this was influenced by an increase in young people aged 12–17 abstaining (increasing from 64% to 71%).
  • Compared to 2010, adults under 40 were less likely to drink 5 or more standard drinks on a single occasion at least once a month in 2013.
  • Adults aged 18–24 were more likely to drink at harmful levels on a single occasion than the rest of the adult population and males were more likely to drink at harmful levels than females.
  • In contrast to single occasion risky drinking, daily drinking was higher among older Australians than younger Australians.
  • Younger people are continuing to delay starting drinking with the average age among those aged 14–24 trying alcohol for the first time increasing from 14.4 in 1998 to 15.7 in 2013.

Harms

  • About 1 in 5 recent drinkers aged 14 or older put themselves or others at risk of harm while under the influence of alcohol in the previous 12 months with driving a vehicle the most common activity undertaken (12.2% of recent drinkers).
  • Almost 5 million Australians aged 14 or older (26%) had been a victim of an alcohol-related incident in 2013 with most of these incidents involving verbal abuse (22%); however, this proportion declined from 2010 (from 24% to 22%). A further 8.7% involved physical abuse and this remained relatively stable between 2010 (8.1%) and 2013.

Alcohol strategies and legislation

Australian governments use a range of measures to minimise alcohol-related harm in the community, including 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, and supporting treatment programs (ANPHA 2014).

Alcohol-related harm to people of any age remains an issue of ongoing concern for the Australian community and a challenging area for public policy response by Australian governments at all levels. Governments have adopted a number of initiatives and strategies aimed at minimising the harmful effects of alcohol use in Australian society.

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

Strategies to minimise alcohol-related harm have been in place for a number of decades. Strategies and activities have focused on a variety of issues including intoxication, public safety and amenity, the health impacts of drinking and the availability of alcohol.

To complement the national policy framework, all states and territories have developed strategies and plans to address alcohol issues in their own jurisdictions. Recently, some state and territory governments have introduced initiatives aimed at reducing alcohol-related harm such as lock-outs and last drink laws.

State and territory regulators have also moved to address the risks of alcohol intake for adolescents. The principal regulatory mechanism for controlling the supply of alcohol in Australia is state and territory liquor licensing legislation, which establishes a minimum legal purchasing age for alcohol and dictate where, when and how alcohol may be sold (ANPHA 2014).

Current use and trends

Between 1993 and 2007, the daily drinking rate for people aged 14 or older remained largely unchanged, at around 8% (Figure 4.1). However, in 2010, there was a significant fall compared to 2007, and in 2013, the proportion drinking daily again declined from 7.2% to 6.5%.

In addition:

  • in the previous 12 months, around three-quarters (78%) of the population aged 14 or older had consumed a full serve of alcohol, and 22% had not consumed alcohol
  • the proportion of people aged 14 or older who had never had a full serve of alcohol has risen since 2004, with an increase between 2010 and 2013 (from 12.1% to 13.8%).

Figure 4.1: Alcohol drinking status, people aged 14 or older, 1991 to 2013 (per cent)

The line graph shows a steady decline in daily drinkers from 10.2% in 1991 to 6.5% in 2013. Ex-drinkers declined from 12.0% to 8.0%. The proportion of people who never had a full serve of alcohol rose from 6.5% to 13.8% over the same period.
  1. Consumed at least a full serve of alcohol, but not in the previous 12 months.

Source: Online Table 4.1.

Alcohol use by age and sex

Drinking status varied noticeably between males and females and different age groups. In particular:

  • males aged 14 or older were almost twice as likely (8.5%) as females (4.6%) to drink daily in 2013 but the fall in daily drinkers described above was only significant for males (from 9.6% to 8.5%) (Online Table 4.2).
  • females were more likely to have never consumed a full glass of alcohol than males but there was an increase in both sexes never having drunk alcohol in 2013 (from 14.2% to 15.8% and from 10.0% to 11.7% respectively)
  • the age group most likely to drink daily continued to be those aged 70 or older, for both males (21%) and females (10.0%) (Figure 4.2; Online Table 4.3)
  • overall Australia has seen a decrease in the proportion of daily drinkers, and this reduction was most noticeable among people in their late 30s to 50s.

Figure 4.2: Daily drinking, people aged 12 or older, by age, 2004 to 2013 (per cent)

 The grouped vertical bar graph shows that, in 2013, less than 0.1% of teenagers aged 12–17 drank daily. This proportion increased with each age group to 14.6% for those aged 70 and over. The proportion of daily drinkers declined between 2004 and 2013 for all age groups.

Source: Online Table S4.14.

Alcohol risk

The Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol aim to assist Australians with decisions about whether to drink alcohol and, if so, how much (See Box 4.1). Furthermore, under these guidelines, pregnant women and young people (aged under 18) are advised not to drink at all (NHMRC 2009).

Box 4.1: The Australian alcohol guidelines

The alcohol risk data in this section is reported against guideline 1 and guideline 2 (see NHMRC 2009 for more details).

Guideline 1: Reducing the risk of alcohol-related harm over a lifetime

Drinking no more than 2 standard drinks on any day reduces the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury.

Guideline 2: Reducing the risk of injury on a single occasion of drinking

Drinking no more than 4 standard drinks on a single occasion reduces the risk of alcohol-related injury arising from that occasion.

Current risky drinking and trends

Many drinkers consume alcohol responsibly; however, a substantial proportion of drinkers consume alcohol at a level that is considered to increase their risk of alcohol-related harm.

The consumption of alcohol in quantities that placed Australians at risk of an alcohol-related disease, illness or injury had remained fairly stable between 2001 and 2010. However, in 2013 there were some changes to peoples' drinking patterns (Figure 4.3). Between 2010 and 2013 for those aged 14 and over:

  • there was a decrease in the proportion of people exceeding the NHMRC guidelines for lifetime risk by consuming more than 2 standard drinks per day on average, from 20% to 18.2%
  • the number of people in Australia drinking at levels that placed them at lifetime risk of an alcohol-related disease or injury in 2013 fell by approximately 250,000 (3.7 million in 2010 down to 3.5 million in 2013)
  • fewer people consumed 5 or more standard drinks on a single drinking occasion at least once a month, declining from 5.2 million in 2010 to 5.0 million in 2013. The proportion exceeding these guidelines declined from 29% in 2010 to 26% in 2013
  • a higher proportion abstained from drinking alcohol and the proportion rose from 19.9% in 2010 to 22% in 2013.

Figure 4.3: Lifetime and single occasion risky (at least monthly) drinking, people aged 14 or older, 2001 to 2013 (per cent)

The line graph shows that the proportion of people drinking at risky levels on a single occasion at least once a month declined from 29.2% in 2001 to 26.4% in 2013. Those drinking at lifetime risky levels declined from 20.5% to 18.2%. The proportion of abstainers rose from 17.7% to 22.0%.
  1. On average, had more than 2 standard drinks per day.
  2. Had more than 4 standard drinks on 1 occasion at least once a month.

Source: Online Table 4.4.

Risky consumption by age and sex

Age is an important determinant of health risks related to alcohol. Younger people experience harm from alcohol-related accident or injury disproportionately. For example, over half of all serious alcohol-related road injuries occur among those aged 15–24, while harm from alcohol-related disease is more evident among older people (NHMRC 2009).

Lifetime risk

In 2013, most people in Australia aged 12 and older drank at levels that did not place them at risk of harm over their lifetime—they either drank at low-risk levels (58%) or abstained (24%) (Online Table 4.5). A similar proportion of adults (about 1 in 5), in all age groups, drank at levels that exceeded the lifetime risk guidelines. Some drinkers though were more likely than others to drink alcohol in a way that increased their lifetime risk of alcohol-related harm. For example:

  • males were twice as likely as females to drink at risky levels (26% and 9.7%, respectively)
  • males in their late 20s (aged 25–29) were the most likely age group to drink at risky levels (32%).

Single occasion risk

Among people in Australia aged 12 and older in 2013, more than 1 in 3 (37%) had consumed 5 or more standard drinks on a single occasion at least once in the past year, therefore exceeding the NHMRC single occasion risk guidelines (Figure 4.4). About 1 in 4 (26%) did so at least once a month, and 1 in 7 (13.8%) did so at least once a week. Risky alcohol intake differed by sex, for example:

  • males were far more likely than females to drink alcohol in quantities that placed them at risk from a single occasion of drinking (47% compared with 27% for women) (Online Table 4.6).
  • males were also more likely to consume alcohol in quantities that exceeded the guidelines more often than women, with 20% of men consuming these quantities at least weekly (compared with 7.5% of women).

The NHMRC drinking guidelines also recommend that for anyone aged under 18, not drinking alcohol is the safest option. Alcohol use among adolescents in Australia was prevalent in 2013, with 15.4% of males and 11.3% of females aged 12–17 exceeding the adult guidelines for single occasion risk. However, these proportions were lower than in 2010, when 19.9% of males and 19.7% of females aged 12–17 exceeded these guidelines.

Although people aged 70 and over were the most likely to drink daily, they were the least likely to consumed alcohol in risky quantities with only 1 in 10 (9.3%) consuming 5 or more standard drinks on a single occasion in the past year. People aged 18–24 were more likely than any other age group to exceed the single occasion risk guidelines, although people in their 40s and 50s were most likely to consume 5 or more standard drinks on a single drinking occasion more regularly, with around 6% doing so on most days or every day. In comparison, people aged 18–24 were most likely to exceed single occasion risk guidelines weekly or monthly.

Figure 4.4: People aged 12 or older at risk of injury on a single occasion of drinking(a), by age, 2013 (per cent)

The stacked vertical bar graph shows that of people aged 12–17, 72.3% were abstainers, 14.2% drank at low-risk levels and 13.5% drank at risky levels at least once a year. For all other age groups, the proportion of low-risk drinking rose with age and risky drinking decreased with age.
  1. Had more than 4 standard drinks on 1 occasion.

Source: Online Table 4.6.

Lifetime and single occasion risk combined

Almost 2 in 5 (38%) people in Australia drank at levels considered low risk of harm, that is from any single drinking occasion (at least once a year) and over a lifetime (Online Table 4.7). In the previous 12 months, males were far more likely than females (24% compared with 8.8%) to have shown drinking patterns that simultaneously placed them at risk of lifetime harm and single occasion harm at least once a year.

Age comparisons over time

Drinking alcohol in adolescence can be harmful to young people's physical and psychosocial development. Alcohol-related damage to the brain can be responsible for memory problems, an inability to learn, problems with verbal skills, alcohol dependence and depression (MCDS 2011). There are various strategies and initiatives in place that focus on raising awareness of the short- and long-term impacts of risky drinking among young people which will, over time, contribute to the development of a more responsible drinking culture within Australian society (DoH 2013).

As discussed earlier in the chapter, the proportion of the population abstaining from alcohol rose between 2010 and 2013 with the increase in abstainers most evident among people aged 12–17 (the proportion choosing to abstain increased from 64% to 72%) (Online Table 4.8). Some age groups also reduced their intake of alcohol as the proportion drinking at risky levels between 2010 and 2013 declined, while for other age groups, particularly people aged over 40, there were no changes in the proportion exceeding the lifetime and single occasion risk guidelines.

Lifetime risk

Between 2001 and 2010 people in their late teens and 20s were more likely to consume more than 2 standard drinks per day on average than other age groups (Figure 4.5). Males aged 25–29 were most likely to exceed guidelines for lifetime risk (32%) (Online Table 4.5); however, as the proportion of those aged 18–29 consuming alcohol at this level declined in 2013, their level of risky drinking became more similar to that of older age groups. Considering males and females together, people in their 40s are now more likely to drink at lifetime risky levels than any other age group. There has been little change in lifetime risky drinking patterns of people aged 40–69 since 2004.

Figure 4.5: Proportion of people exceeding the lifetime risk(a) guidelines, people aged 12 or older, by age, 2001 to 2013 (per cent)

The proportion of teenagers aged 12–17 drinking at risky levels decreased between 2004 and 2013. Between 2001 and 2013, the proportion also decreased for those aged 18–39, 50–59 and 70 and older but increased for those aged 40–49 and 60–69.
  1. On average, had more than 2 standard drinks per day.

Source: Online Table 4.8.

Single occasion risk

The reduction in people exceeding the single occasion risk guideline (at least monthly) appears to be mainly due to the proportion of people under 40 reducing their alcohol use (Figure 4.6). While people aged 40 or older were generally less likely than people in younger age groups to drink alcohol in these quantities (5 or more drinks on a single occasion at least once a month), there has been little change in the drinking patterns of people in these age groups over the past decade.

Figure 4.6: Proportion of people exceeding the single occasion risk(a) guidelines (at least monthly), people aged 12 or older, by age, 2001 to 2013 (per cent)

For the years 2001 to 2013, the proportion of people exceeding the single occasion guidelines at least once a month decreased among people aged 18–39 but increased for people aged 40 or older. The proportion of people aged 12–17 exceeding the guidelines decreased from 17.2% in 2004 to 8.6% in 2013.
  1. Had more than 4 standard drinks on 1 occasion.

Source: Online Table 4.8.

Very high risk

While it's important to understand the proportion of the population drinking at risky levels according to the NHRMC 2009 alcohol guidelines, it's also important to explore drinking patterns among these drinkers further and examine those who are drinking well in excess of the guidelines. In 2013:

  • around 1 in 6 (15.6%) people aged 12 or older had consumed 11 or more standard drinks on a single drinking occasion in the past 12 months (Online Table 4.9) and 1 in 15 (7.3%) had done so in the last month (declining from 8.5% in 2010)
  • people in their late teens and 20s were more likely to consume 11 or more standard drinks than people in other age groups, with about 3 in 10 reporting they had done so in the past year, but they were the only age group to significantly curb their very high risk alcohol use between 2010 and 2013 (for example, from 24% to 17.8% at least monthly and from 38% to 33% at least yearly for people aged 18–24).

Age first tried alcohol

Guideline 3 of the NHMRC alcohol guidelines is based on an assessment of the potential harms of alcohol for young people. Epidemiological research has shown that alcohol may adversely affect brain development and lead to alcohol-related problems in later life (NHMRC 2009). Therefore the guidelines state that young people aged under 15 should not drink at all as they are at the greatest risk of harm, and that for those aged 15–17, the safest option is to delay the initiation of drinking as long as possible (NHMRC 2009). Despite these guidelines, most people try alcohol during adolescence. However, the age at which people first tried alcohol has been increasing over time. More specifically:

  • the average age at which young people aged 14–24 first tried alcohol has steadily rose since 1998 from 14.4 to 15.7 in 2013 (Online Table 4.10)
  • the average age of initiation was similar for males and females aged 14–24, and between 2010 and 2013, the average age increased for both sexes; from 15.2 to 15.7 for males and from 15.3 to 15.6 for females.

What's consumed, where it's consumed and how it's sourced

Beverage preferences differ by sex and by age. Consistent with findings in 2010, male drinkers most commonly consumed regular strength beer and female drinkers mainly consumed bottled wine in 2013 (Online Table 4.11). The exceptions to these preferences were for people aged 12–17 and females aged 18–24 who preferred to consume pre-mixed spirits. There were no significant changes in drink preferences among drinkers overall between 2010 and 2013.

Underage drinkers (those aged 12–17) were more likely to consume alcohol at private parties (62%) (Online Table 4.13) and mainly sourced their alcohol from a friend (45%) (Online Table 4.12). Adults on the other hand tended to mainly drink in their own home (80%) and buy alcohol themselves (86%).

Nearly half (47%) of people (aged 12 or older) had their first glass of alcohol supplied by a friend and almost one-quarter (24%) were supplied their first glass by their parent (Online Table 4.14). Younger people were slightly more likely to say their parents supplied their first alcoholic drink while older people (aged 40 or older) were more likely to report buying their first serve themselves. This remained stable in 2013.

Drinking reduction

While almost 4 in 10 (37%) people aged 14 and over drink at least once a week (Online Table 4.2), a substantial number have taken action to reduce their drinking. In 2013, 49% of recent drinkers (those who had consumed at least 1 full drink of alcohol in the last 12 months) had taken action/s to reduce their consumption (Online Table 4.15). The most common intake reduction actions were to reduce the amount of alcohol consumed at one time (30%) and/or to reduce the number of drinking occasions (29%). Lifetime risky drinkers were slightly more likely to have made changes to their drinking behaviour than low-risk drinkers.

Some age groups were more likely than others to take actions to reduce their use. Among lifetime risky drinkers:

  • people aged 60 or older were more likely to reduce the amount they drank per session (39%) and less likely to reduce the number of times they drank (22%) than other age groups (Figure 4.7)
  • people aged 18–24 were more likely to have changed their main drink preference in the previous 12 months (14.3% compared with 6.6% for total adult population) and the least likely to have reduced the amount consumed per session (27%)
  • people in their late 20s were the least likely to have taken any actions to reduce their consumption and the proportion stating they had not undertaken any of the reduction measures specified in the survey rose from 38% to 49% between 2010 and 2013.

Figure 4.7: Reduction in alcohol consumption, lifetime risky drinkers(a) aged 12 or older, by age, 2013 (per cent)

The grouped vertical bar graph shows that the proportion of lifetime risky drinkers who took measures to reduce their drinking varied with age. The proportion who took no measures to reduce their drinking ranged from 44.2% for those aged 30–39 to 49.4% for those aged 25–29.
  1. On average, had more than 2 standard drinks per day.

Note: Base is lifetime risky drinkers.

Source: Online Table 4.29.

The main reason drinkers changed their drinking behaviour in 2013 was for health reasons (50%), followed by lifestyle reasons (37%). Lifetime risky drinkers were more likely to reduce their alcohol intake due to financial reasons than low-risk drinkers (16.4% for lifetime risky drinkers compared with 10.3% for low risk) (Online Table 4.16). Drinkers were less likely to be motivated by social reasons (decreasing from 32% in 2010 to 28% in 2013) and drink driving regulations (declined from 18.9% to 13.2%), particularly those drinkers aged 40 or older (Online Table 4.30). Drinkers aged 25–29 were considerably more likely to be motivated by financial reasons in 2013 (from 18.4% in 2010 to 31% in 2013).

Health and harm

The excessive intake of alcohol not only affects the drinkers' health by putting them at risk of an alcohol-related disease, illness or injury, but also affects other people around them. Results from the 2013 NDSHS showed that risky drinkers were more likely to:

  • lose their memory after drinking (Online Table 4.17)
  • believe they can consume above the recommended guidelines without affecting or putting their health at risk (Online tables 4.18–4.21)
  • experience verbal or physical abuse by someone under the influence of alcohol (Online Table 4.22)
  • take part in risky behaviours such as driving while under the influence (Online Table 4.23).

Perceptions of health effects

Risky drinkers were less likely to be aware of the number of standard drinks an adult could drink before putting their health at risk—55% of male lifetime risky drinkers (Online Table 4.18) and 26% of female lifetime risky drinkers (Online Table 4.19) thought they could consume 3 or more standard drinks per day without adversely affecting their health (compared with 22% and 5.8% of low-risk drinkers). The majority of single occasion risky drinkers also thought they could consume 5 or more standard drinks in a 6-hour period before putting their health at risk (Online tables 4.20 and 4.21) and male risky drinkers were more likely to believe this than female risky drinkers (79% and 53% respectively).

Compared to 2010, a higher proportion of males thought that no amount of alcohol was safe to drink without putting their health at risk over a lifetime, and a higher proportion correctly reported that 1–2 standard drinks could be consumed every day. Overall, there was little change in females' perception of the number of standard drinks they thought they could safely consume on a single occasion, but a higher proportion of female risky drinkers thought they could consume 7 or more standard drinks without putting their health at risk (from 22% to 27%).

Harms to others

Much of the alcohol-related disease burden arises from unintentional and intentional injuries, including those due to road traffic accidents, violence and suicide (WHO 2011).

An objective of the NDS is to minimise the harmful effects on the population of both licit and illicit drugs. The NDSHS contributes to this by exploring and reporting on the experiences of drug-related incidents and harm for Australians.

Perpetrators of harm

In 2013, 1 in 5 (21%) recent drinkers aged 14 or older put themselves or others at risk of harm while under the influence of alcohol in the previous 12 months (Online Table 4.24). Driving a motor vehicle was the most likely risky activity undertaken while under the influence of alcohol (12.2% of recent drinkers). Between 2010 and 2013, there was a drop in the proportion of the population who went to work while under the influence (from 5.0% to 4.2%) and who verbally abused someone (from 5.7% to 4.0%) (Figure 4.8). Risky drinkers were also more likely to report loss of memory after drinking at least once in the last 12 months than low-risk drinkers (55% compared with 16%) (Online Table 4.17).

Figure 4.8: Victims and perpetrators of alcohol-related harm, recent drinkers aged 14 or older, 2010 and 2013 (per cent)

The grouped vertical bar graph shows that the proportion of people who were victims of alcohol-related physical abuse and the proportion of recent drinkers who had driven a vehicle under the influence remained stable between 2010 and 2013. The proportion of recent drinkers being verbally abused or put in fear declined. The proportion of recent drinkers that reported verbally or physically abusing someone, creating a disturbance, or going to work while under the influence of alcohol, all declined.

Note: Base is recent drinkers.

Source: Online tables 4.24 and 4.25.

Victims of harm

Respondents were asked if they had been verbally or physically abused, or put in fear, in the past 12 months, by persons affected or under the influence of alcohol. More than 1 in 4 (26%) Australians aged 14 and over (equivalent to 5 million people) had been a victim of an alcohol-related incident in 2013 (Online Table 4.25). Most of these incidents involved verbal abuse (22%), although this proportion declined from 2010 (from 24% to 22%). While there was no change in the proportion of people experiencing physical abuse between 2010 and 2013, the number of people who were physically abused rose from 1.5 million to 1.7 million.

Certain groups were also more likely to have undergone alcohol-related incidents than others. For example:

  • males were more likely than females to experience verbal (26% compared with 19%) or physical abuse (10.4% compared with 7.1%) in the past 12 months, but a greater proportion of females were put in fear (13.8% compared with 11.3%) (Online Table 4.25)
  • people aged 18–24 were more likely than other age groups to experience verbal abuse (35%), physical abuse (15.2%) or be put in fear by someone under the influence of alcohol (18.6%) (Online Table 4.26)
  • risky drinkers were more likely, compared to both low-risk drinkers and abstainers, to have suffered both verbal and physical abuse by someone affected by alcohol (Figure 4.9); but the proportion of abstainers and low-risk drinkers experiencing physical abuse increased between 2010 and 2013 (from 5.2% to 9.4% and from 4.7% to 6.0% respectively).

Females were more likely than males to report their abuser being their current or former spouse or partner, while males were more likely to report their abuser being a stranger (Online Table 4.27).

Of people who had been physically abused by someone under the influence of alcohol, bruising or abrasions was the most frequent injury sustained, and 8.3% of all injuries were serious enough to require hospital admission (Online Table 4.28).

Figure 4.9: Victims of alcohol-related incidents in the previous 12 months, people aged 14 or older, by single occasion risk, 2010 and 2013 (per cent)

The grouped vertical bar graph shows that in 2010 and 2013, those who drank at risky levels at least once a month were more likely to have been the victims of any alcohol-related incident than abstainers and people who drank at low-risk levels. It also shows declines in the proportion of low-risk drinker and risky drinkers being put in fear but rises in the proportion of abstainers and low-risk drinkers being physically abused.
  1. Not consumed alcohol in the previous 12 months.
  2. Never had more than 4 standard drinks on any occasion.
  3. Had more than 4 standard drinks at least once a month.

Source: Online Table 4.22.