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.
The harmful use of alcohol has both short-term and long-term health effects. Short-term effects are mainly related to potential injury suffered by the drinker and/or others who may be affected by the drinker’s behaviour. 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. Excessive drinking can impair judgement 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.
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.
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) provides guidelines about alcohol use to help Australians make an informed choice about reducing their health risks from alcohol. The most recent version of the guidelines, Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol, was released in 2020.
- Laslett A-M, Room R, Ferris J, Wilkinson C, Livingstone M and Mugavin J 2011 Surveying the range and magnitude of alcohol's harm to others in Australia, Addiction, 106(9):1603–1611, doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2011.03445.x.
- ANPHA (Australian National Preventive Health Agency) 2014 Alcohol advertising: the effectiveness of current regulatory codes in addressing community concern. ANPHA: Canberra.
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