Older Australians' perceptions of alcohol-related harms and low-risk alcohol guidelines

Janine Chapman, Nathan Harrison, Victoria Kostadinov, Natalie Skinner, Ann Roche

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    11 Citations (Scopus)


    Introduction and Aims: Australia has an ageing population. Given the concomitant increase in the numbers and proportion of risky drinkers among older adults, research examining contributory factors is a priority. The current study examined older adults' estimates of the NHMRC low-risk drinking guidelines, consumption patterns and associated harms and self-identification of drinking type.

    Design and Methods: Data from respondents aged 50+ years (N = 11 886) in the 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey were subjected to secondary analyses. Estimates of low-risk drinking levels, perceived level of harm from current drinking, self-identification of drinking type and awareness of standard drinks and labelling were included. Data were examined for those aged 50–59 years and 60+.

    Results: Seventeen percent of older Australians drank at both long-term and short-term risk levels. Approximately 39% of males and 11% of females overestimated the long-term low-risk levels and 54% of males and 20% of females overestimated the short-term low-risk levels. Overestimation was highest among risky drinkers. Most older risky drinkers were aware of standard drinks and labelling; however, less than half perceived their drinking as harmful, instead identifying as social drinkers.

    Discussion and Conclusions: Although substantial gaps are evident in older respondents' estimates of low-risk drinking, additional public awareness campaigns are likely to be of limited use. Older peoples' engagement with the public health system presents ‘windows of opportunity’ to provide targeted, age-appropriate harm reduction strategies. Appropriate intervention and policy responses are required to direct resources to this emerging area of concern.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)44-54
    Number of pages11
    JournalDrug and Alcohol Review
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


    • alcohol consumption
    • Australians
    • harm reduction
    • older adults


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