Alcohol Use Statistics

Alcohol consumption patterns in Australia in 2016

  • About 3 out 4 (77%) of Australians aged 14 or older reported they had consumed alcohol in the past year and 5.9% drank on a daily basis; the proportion of people consuming alcohol daily has continue to decline since 2001 (8.3%) [1]
  • Almost 1 in 5 (17.1%) people aged 14 or older consumed more than 2 standard drinks per day on average, exceeding the lifetime risk guidelines – this was a decline from 18.2% in 2013 [1]
  • Around 1 in 7  (15.4%) had 11+ drinks on a single drinking occasion in the past 12 months – 1 in 14 (7.1%) had done so at  least monthly
  • Adults aged 18–24 were more likely to drink at harmful levels (11+ drinks) on a single occasion than the rest of the adult population (29% yearly, 15.3% monthly) [1]

Changes in alcohol consumption in Australia

  • Fewer people aged 12–17 drank alcohol in 2016—the proportion abstaining from alcohol significantly increased from 72% in 2013 to 82% in 2016
  • Younger people are delaying drinking – the average age of 14–24 year olds trying alcohol for the first time increased from 14.7 (2001) to 16.1 (2016)
  • More people in their 50s consuming 11 or more standard drinks in one occasion
  • About 1 in 2 recent drinkers took action to reduce their alcohol intake in 2016 – concern for their health was the main reason for doing this
  • Since 2007, the proportion of women consuming alcohol during pregnancy has declined and the proportion abstaining has risen. Between 2013 and 2016, the proportion of pregnant women abstaining from alcohol slightly increased from 53% to 56% but this rise was not statistically significant

Alcohol-related harms

  • Recent drinkers undertaking risky activities while under the influence of alcohol continues to decline – from 23% in 2007 to 17.4% in 2016 with driving a vehicle the most common activity undertaken (9.9% of recent drinkers)
  • In 2011, alcohol use disorders were the second leading cause of total burden for males aged 15-24 and the third leading cause for males aged 25-44, in Australia. [2]
  • In the ACT, alcohol use contributed to 28% of the burden due to road traffic injuries, 24% of the burden due to chronic liver disease and 23% of the burden due to suicide and self-inflicted injuries in 2011. [2]


Daily alcohol consumption, people aged 14 years and older, ACT and Australia, 2001 to 2013 (%) [1]


Alcohol consumption, longer term/lifetime risk, people aged 18 years and older, ACT and Australia, 2011 (%) [3]

 ACT  Australia  
2001 NHMRC Guidelines
Low Risk57.146.851.955.540.648.0
High Risk6.
Risky/High Risk13.910.912.413.410.111.7
2009 NHMRC Guidelines
Did Not Exceed Guidelines39.546.843.239.840.640.3
Exceeded Guidelines31.410.921.
Did not consume alcohol in the last week but did less than 12 months ago20.
Consumed alcohol 12 or more months ago5.
Never consumed alcohol3.

Victims of alcohol-related incidents in the previous 12 months in Australia, people aged 14 years and older, 2010 and 2013 (%) [1]

Any incident30.628.726.523.428.526.0
Verbal abuse27.325.721.718.924.522.3
Put in fear12.711.315.813.814.312.6
Physical abuse9.710.

Harmful alcohol use:

A pattern of use that is causing damage to health, which may be physical (eg. liver cirrhosis, cancer) or mental (eg. depressive episodes related to heavy alcohol intake) and typically occurs over the medium to long term. Harmful use commonly, but not in all cases, has negative social consequences. Put simply, harmful use means the drinker is already experiencing harm.

1] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2017). National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2016: detailed findings. Drug Statistics series no. 31. Cat. no. PHE 214. Canberra: AIHW.

[2] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2016). Australian Burden of Disease Study: Impact and causes of illness and death in Australia 2011. Australian Burden of Disease Study series no. 3. BOD 4. Canberra: AIHW.

[3] ACT Health: (2016), Healthy Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Chief Health Officer’s Report 2016, ACT Government, Canberra ACT.