Australia’s love for the drink has hit a dry spell, new data shows, as alcohol consumption drops to levels not seen since the early 1960s.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ latest report shows that in 2016-17 the total booze consumed by people over 15 was equivalent to 9.4 litres of pure alcohol per person.
Put another way, the ABS said that looked a little like this per person, per year:
- 224 stubbies of beer
- 38 bottles of wine
- 17 bottles of cider
- 4 bottles of spirits, and
- 33 cans of premixed spirits
Believe it or not, this is actually the lowest average consumption recorded since 1961-62.
The overall drop has been led by a continued decline in beer intake, with Australians drinking roughly the same amount of beer as wine these days, as measured in pure alcohol terms.
“If 224 stubbies sounds like a lot, contrast that with 1974-75 when Australia reached ‘peak beer’ and the consumption was equivalent to over 500 stubbies per person,” ABS director of health statistics Louise Gates said.
Michael Thorn is the CEO of FARE (Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education) and said his data showed the change was led by young people and teetotalers.
“[Abstainers] are up from around 20 per cent to a bit over 22 per cent now,” he said.
“Young drinkers, and I mean those under the age of 18 … are delaying the time at which they commence drinking and they’re drinking less alcohol, and some of them are continuing on into their 20s as abstainers.”
The decline continues the recent downward trend that began in 2008-09.
To help explain what’s driving this we asked ABC audiences why they were drinking less. This is what they had to say:
For some, it had just become too expensive:
If you struggle to afford rent, a nice craft beer is going to be out of the question — Carl
It’s too expensive with the cost of living and no wage growth nowadays. Alcohol is a luxury now — Shanna
How can anyone afford to drink in pubs all day without being single or homeless or wasting your super? — Luke
I used to not worry about the price of booze. I have to now, and it has decreased my consumption — Steven
A typical 24-carton of full-strength beer at 4.9 per cent alcohol will set you back $47.99. Of that, $16.49 is excise, then add $4.36 in GST. Yep, $20.85 is tax. At almost half of the retail price the most expensive ingredient in beer is tax — Marek
For others it’s about quality of life (or staying alive):
My wife and I stopped completely seven months ago after a large anniversary party, just as a cleansing idea. We haven’t gone back because everything, including our marriage, has blossomed. We have much more energy, have lost weight, enjoy clear thinking, and receive constant compliments about how good we look — Warren
As of May, no alcohol or cigarettes. Cold turkey. It took a near-death experience for dumbo me to wake up — Paul
One word: hangovers:
My ageing body can’t cope with the hangovers anymore — Ann
Law changes prompted other shifts:
People don’t want to drink and drive, so the laws there are helping people slow down — Brian
We certainly drank less when random breath testing came in — Jim
Many cited health reasons:
I haven’t had a drop in about 10 months and do not miss it at all. The weight lost and money gained is motivation enough to keep going — Greg
I have given up drinking at age 47 and feel so much better for it. I’m loving my new lifestyle; however, not everyone is comfortable with my decision — Katherine
Menopause = instant no more alcohol — Rita
I don’t drink as much as I once did — and I go months without drinking at all — because of a growing awareness of alcohol as a highly addictive drug — Lara
A lot of people cut down for family reasons:
I stopped consuming any alcohol on 7/01/18, if anything because I’m a father of two young kids. It was an easy decision — John
I stopped drinking when I became a dad. Now I just compensate with soft drink, chips, chocolate and cordial — Charles
Since having children more than 20 years ago I no longer drink. Don’t miss it. As for my kids, they hardly touch the stuff — Fiona
I have not had a drop since Christmas Day 1999 … I never had a problem with drinking, but having a father that drank every day I saw the effects of it and I did not want my daughter to see the same — Stephen
Finally, some worry the issue has just shifted:
I once asked a teen why she took illegal pills when she went out nightclubbing. Her answer: “Cheaper than alcohol” — Michael
Simply put, 1000 per cent more people use drugs instead of alcohol now, as opposed to 50 years ago — Paul
There are also many people using party drugs as it’s cheaper over a big night on alcohol — Jennie