The dramatic reinvention of our drinking culture has been revealed by new data from Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). While it was previously regarded as one of the heaviest drinking nations in the world, moderation has become the new normal: on a per-capita basis the consumption of alcohol in Australia is now at a 50-year low.
In 1968, Aussies consumed 10.8 litres pure alcohol per person. In 2018 it was down to 9.5 litres. Fewer Australians are drinking daily, down significantly from 8.5% in 2001 to 5.4% in 2019. Even those who enjoy a glass or two a week is down from 39% to 34% over the same period.
Overall, risky drinking rates are falling, consumption levels are declining and underage and young Australians are overwhelmingly avoiding drinking at all.
Consumers’ favoured beverages have also shifted. Fifty years ago, beer was the drink of choice representing almost three quarters of all alcohol sales (73.5%). Now its 39%, with wine rising from 14.4% to almost 39% (38.4%). Spirits, cocktails and packaged ready-to-drink products now represent 19.9%, up from 12.2%.
Alcohol Beverages Australian CEO Andrew Wilsmore (above) said: “What you are seeing is significant cultural change where moderation is the new norm – Australians are making sensible choices and choosing to act responsibility when it comes to enjoying alcohol.
“No-one who works hard at crafting a beer, wine or spirit wants Australians harmed by their product and over several decades of partnering with Governments or by investing in industry-led programs and initiatives, it is pleasing to see the proportion of people exceeding lifetime risk guidelines (drinking more than two standard drinks a day) declining from 21% in 2001 to 16.8% in 2019. It’s a trend that says Australian are increasingly capable of making sensible, personal decisions around their own consumption.
“Public education campaigns and police RBT enforcement has clearly made a big difference. The AIHW data shows driving a car was the riskiest activity undertaken while under the influence of alcohol and has fallen more than 40% from 14.3 to 9.9% of drinkers over nine years.”
Underage Australians in particular have heeded the message about abstaining from alcohol with 72.5% of 14-17 year old’s not ever having had a drink in 2019, up from 39% from just 12 years before.
“We think more carefully about how we drink these days,” said Wilsmore. “Australians are making conscious decisions to moderate and drink responsibly, with big trends during COVID seeing Australians choosing to drink less, but spending more on a premium product, or exploring low and zero-alcohol products.
“It’s a strong message to those want to want to regulate drinkers ever further. Australians are doing the right thing by drinking responsibly and at the same time backing an industry that supports the livelihoods of 485,000 people and generates $52 billion in economic value.”
The year Aussies drank the most beer in the world
An animated chart has also revealed the countries that drank the most beer over the last 50 years and the year that Australia took out the No.1 spot for the first time.
The chart takes its data from the World Health Organization Global Health Observatory and tracks the countries that drank the most beer per capita every year from 1961 to 2018.
For many years, it was Germany that topped the list. But in 1973 Australia hit No.1 – drinking 9.59 litres per capita – however by 2018 it didn’t even make the list as the moderation trend took hold.
View the mesmerising animated chart below: