A study by La Trobe University has found the vast majority of alcohol is not consumed in licensed premises, and calls for measures beyond the blame and restrictions heaped on pubs and bars.
Surveying more than 2,000 Australians, the University sought to learn where alcohol is consumed, and where ‘risky’ drinkers do their drinking.
It found nearly two thirds of all alcohol consumed in Australia is drunk in the drinker’s own home, which represented five times the amount drunk in pubs, bars and nightclubs combined.
Furthermore, respondents that exceed the National Health and Medical Research Council’s (NHMRC) guidelines for avoiding long-term harm (more than two drinks per day on average) do 75 per cent of their drinking at home.
The NHMRC’s other primary alcohol guideline, to avoid short-term harm, is four or less drinks in a single session. Respondents who exceed this reported drinking 60 per cent at home.
One of the highest consumption groups is males aged 16 to 24, who do a total of 61 per cent of their drinking either at their own home or someone else’s, and average ten standard drinks in these situations. Although they proportionally drink more at licensed premises than older groups, this still amounted to only 23 per cent, and 8.5 standard drinks in a session.
The thinking behind the differences is largely that more people drink at home than at premises, and that drinking occasions at home occur more often. The research found the average occasion at home across all groups is over five standard drinks.
But the price differential between off-premise and on-premise is obviously a factor, and many respondents reported drinking at private dwellings prior to going out due to the cost.
Prior research by La Trobe found that heavy drinkers were more likely to purchase any low-cost alcohol, and suggests Government efforts to minimise harm should consider a review of the WET (Wine Equalisation Tax) system that allows high volumes of low quality wine to be sold very cheaply.
What’s more, Australian authorities seeking to reduce the impacts of alcohol consumption should consider the merits of fostering social-based drinking in supervised environments versus low-cost high-volume alcohol consumed in private.