Australians drinking less alcohol, ABS figures show

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 9th April 2014
Australians are drinking less

Australians are drinking less alcohol overall than any time in the previous 15 years, according to recent figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

“Across all alcoholic beverages, there were 9.9 litres of pure alcohol available for consumption in 2012-13 for every person in Australia aged 15 years and over,” said Louise Gates, Director of Health from the ABS. “This is the lowest level since the mid-1990s,” she said.

The ABS said the decrease was due mainly to a continuation of the downward trend in apparent consumption of beer, at the same time as a flattening out in wine consumption.

“In terms of pure alcohol, consumption of beer has more than halved since the peak in the mid-1970s, and is now at the lowest level since 1945-46,” Ms Gates said.

“For wine, there has been a steady increased in people’s consumption over the long-term but recently this trend appears to have plateaued, and in fact, per person consumption of wine has decreased slightly over the past three years,” Ms Gates said. “Ready-to-drink beverages have also seen a drop over the past five years, while consumption of spirits has remained relatively steady,” Ms Gates said.

Beer still most consumed alcoholic beverage

However, the ABS figures showed that beer still comprised the greatest proportion of all pure alcohol consumed in Australia at 41 per cent. This was followed by wine (37 per cent), spirits (13 per cent) and ready-to-drink beverages (7 per cent). Cider is estimated to account for a small but growing proportion, at 2 per cent.

Study method

The ABS said estimates of ‘apparent consumption’ were obtained from information related to supply (for example, excise data on alcohol produced for domestic consumption, and data on imports) and did not represent actual consumption.

No account was taken of changes in stocks, duty-free alcohol imported by individual overseas travellers, or for alcohol that had been stored or cellared, used in the preparation of food, or discarded as waste. All alcohol available for consumption in a particular year was assumed to have been consumed in that year.

Australians’ changing alcohol preferences

Australian Food News has reported previously on changing preferences for alcohol in Australia. In November 2013, Australian Food News reported that the number of Australians drinking Australian mass-produced beer had fallen, while those drinking imported beer had grown. In September 2013, Australian Food News reported that ABS findings at the time had shown that beer drinking had reached a 66-year low, while wine drinking was on the rise. In February 2014, Australian Food News reported that whiskey drinking was gaining popularity among Australians in their 20s and 30s.