By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
According to latest research there are very few Australians who know what a safe level of alcohol consumption is.
A Centre for Alcohol Policy Research report, released today, found 95 per cent of people surveyed were unable to correctly identify the Australian guidelines for safe drinking levels. Between 30 and 50 per cent were unable to even provide an estimate.
Researcher Michael Livingston, from the centre, said the misconceptions were particularly pronounced among young people, men and heavy drinkers. “Young people are significantly overestimating the number of standard drinks to consume per occasion to reduce the risk of short-term harms, with young men aged 14-19 years estimating 8.8 drinks while their female counterparts estimated 6.5 drinks,” he said.
According to guidelines people should consume no more than two standard drinks a day to reduce the risk of short and long-term harm caused by alcohol consumption. No more than four drinks should be consumed at any sitting. These figures changed for men from guidelines released in 2001 that suggested four drinks a day and six drinks in a sitting was safe. For this new study they surveyed a total of 26,000 people around Australia. The report was released to coincide with the third anniversary of the latest change to the guidelines in 2009.
According to Mr. Livingston drinkers who had more than 11 standard drinks a day were also more likely to overestimate the number of drinks to be consumed in a sitting to avoid short-term harm. “Men estimated 9.2 drinks and women estimated 5.9 drinks were safe,” he said. “There is an association between how much people choose to drink and what they think is actually safe. Drinking more than two standard drinks gives a one in 100 chance of dying from an alcohol-related cause, such as cancer, an accident, violence or assault.”