Monday, July 4, 2016

Australians drinking less alcohol than at any time since 1960s: study

Young Australians are helping drive the nation to its lowest alcohol consumption levels since the early 1960s, according to a new study.

Melbourne researchers have found there has been a steady decline in drinking during the past decade with young Australians drinking less and the ageing of heavier drinkers being key factors in helping drive a generational change in the nation's drinking habits.

In an exhaustive study by Australia's Centre for Alcohol Policy Research at La Trobe University, researchers examined the drinking habits of 124,440 Australians aged 14 to 79 years, over an 18-year period.

Their report, Understanding trends in Australian alcohol consumption, looked at trends in alcohol consumption across Australia, and showed that drinking has gradually declined during the past decade, with per-capita consumption in 2013-14 reaching its lowest level since the early 1960s.

Lead author of the study, Dr Michael Livingston, said the results showed a generational shift in Australia's drinking culture.

"The main driver of this obvious drop is that young drinkers those born since the 1990s are drinking much less alcohol," Livingston said in a La Trobe University publication on Monday.

"This is a trend that's being seen in many other countries in the UK, the US and much of Europe, but the reasons for the decline in youth drinking remain unclear."

According to the research, alcohol consumption among Australians peaks between 40 and 60 years of age. As drinkers move into their 60s and 70s, they tend to modify their drinking habits, a trend that also helps to explain the recent decline in drinking rates.

However, the main reason for the reduced drinking in Australia can be attributed to the drop in drinking among Australians born in the 1990s.

Researchers believe the reduction of a heavy drinking culture among young people has the potential to create long-term public health benefits.

"There are bucket loads of evidence that the later people start drinking the less they drink as adolescents, and the better the (health) outcomes in the long term," Livingston said on Monday.

"We should have a real flow on effect here in terms of public health benefits as this group ages."

Livingston suspects the reduced drinking may be a result of young Australians having new ways to entertain themselves, as compared to past generations.

"If you think of alcohol it's something people use to be sociable, something they use when they're bored, and we have a cohort here that has new ways of being sociable and news ways of finding entertainment," he said.

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