Alcohol guidelines are having little impact in Australia, report finds

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 2nd December 2011

A report commissioned by the Australian Government has found that its own alcohol guidelines are considered “unrealistic” and “confusing”.

The report, published by market research company Horizon Research, evaluated effectiveness of the government’s ‘Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol’ in educating Australians about the health risks of excessive alcohol consumption.

The guidelines were released by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in 2009. Amongst the guidelines recommendations are no alcohol for pregnant women or children and a maximum of two standard alcoholic drinks per day.

The Horizon Research report claims that the NHMRC guidelines are “considered unrealistic (too low) and confusing”.

According to the report, Horizon Research’s study indicated that, overall, Australians do not believe they are at risk from drinking. It also found that there is little awareness or consideration of the long term health implications of excessive alcohol consumption.

The report also states that the guidelines “will not engage the community nor influence attitudes towards the consumption of alcohol merely by virtue of their existence or being the ‘official’ recommendations”. It also suggests a ‘low key’ approach by the government is unlikely to have a significant impact on alcohol consumption in Australia.

“A strategy based on ‘general education’ is too passive and does not challenge drinking habits which are seen to be hugely enjoyable and an integral part of Australian’s social lives,” the report says.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Ageing, which commissioned the report, said today, “As the new Australian National Preventative Health Agency is assuming some responsibility in this area, including national-level social marketing campaigns, this evaluation document has been referred to the Agency for their consideration and information.”