Australia’s love affair with alcohol appears to be waning, with more young people choosing to give up the booze.
Aussies drank the equivalent to 186 million litres of pure alcohol in 2016-17, or just under 10 litres for every person in the country aged 15 years or over, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
Incredibly, it was the lowest annual figure since the early 1960s and it is a trend that is gaining momentum.
How to drink smarter
- Set limits for yourself and stick to them
- Start with non-alcoholic drinks and alternate with alcoholic drinks
- Drink slowly
- Try drinks with a lower alcohol content
- Eat before or while you are drinking
- If you participate in rounds of drinks try to include some non-alcoholic drinks
— Australian Department of Health
Research from La Trobe University analysed data from 120,000 Australians from the national Drug Strategy Household Survey and found one-third of adults said they had reduced how often or how much they drank in the past year.
A further 29 per cent said they had reduced the frequency of their drinking and 6 per cent said they had kicked the habit for good.
Those aged between 24 and 29 were the most likely to have reduced their alcohol intake, citing work, education and family as motivators for the change.
Lead researcher Amy Pennay, from the university’s Centre for Alcohol Policy Research, said a cultural shift was underway in Australia when it came to drinking.
“Most surprisingly, we found that intoxication is not as acceptable as what it once was,” Dr Pennay said.
“[People] believe in moderation, they are concerned about violence, and they want to avoid drunkenness, or genuinely dislike how getting drunk makes them feel.”
So what are we drinking?
ABS figures show beer and wine make up the most widely consumed alcohol in the country at 39 and 38 per cent, respectively.
However, the desire for beer was down.
Between 1974-75, Australians consumed an average of 500 stubbies per person, that figure dropped to 224 beers per person in 2016-17.
Despite the downturn, Australians are still among the heaviest drinkers in the world, drinking just under 10 litres of pure alcohol each year per person — more than Americans and the Japanese.
The World Health Organisation found the French were among the biggest drinkers in the world, consuming 12 litres of pure alcohol a year, followed by Russia at 11.7 litres.
Making alcohol-free craft beer from bush tucker
Psychologist Clinton Schultz developed what he says is Australia’s first alcohol-free craft beer, Sobah, after deciding to give up drinking.
“I didn’t come from the most positive of households when I was a kid and drugs and alcohol was unfortunately my way of coping with certain things that I had been through when I was younger,” Mr Schultz said.
“It really didn’t come to an end until my kids asked me to stop drinking.
“Australians have a problem with alcohol.”
Mr Schultz drew on his Indigenous background to create a range flavoured with bush tucker ingredients, including lemon aspen and finger lime, which now sells across Australia.
“Non-alcoholic drinks are the fastest-growing area in the adults drinks sector, which is exciting,” Mr Schultz said.
Mr Schultz, who is based on Queensland’s Gold Coast, works in the drug and alcohol rehabilitation field, and regularly visits remote Indigenous communities in Queensland’s Cape York — many of which are dry communities.
“That’s part of our market but really we just wanted options available for anybody who is choosing not to drink,” he said.
“There’s pregnant people, designated drivers — it’s giving people a choice other than soft drink or soda water with a piece of lime in it.”