Christmas is just over the horizon and much of Australia is loosening social rules that have helped to curb the pandemic, so many people might be looking forward to a celebratory drink.
But don’t uncork that wine just yet, or throw away the cap from the spirits bottle.
According to strict new national guidelines, adults should not drink more than 10 standard drinks a week and keep it at four on any given day to reduce the risk of alcohol-related health issues.
That’s a big drop on the previous weekly limit of 14 standard drinks, set in 2009.
Developed by the National Health and Medical Research Council, the advice takes into account the latest scientific findings on the health impacts of alcohol.
There are three guidelines in total, the first relating to adults. The second says people under the age of 18 should not drink any alcohol, to reduce the risk of injury and other harm.
The third is targeted at pregnant or breastfeeding women, who have been told it is safest to not drink alcohol at all – for their babies’ health.
Women who are trying to conceive should not drink alcohol either.
There are more than 4000 alcohol-related deaths and 70,000 hospital admissions in Australia each year.
Alcohol is linked to more than 40 medical conditions, including cancers.
Acting chief medical officer Paul Kelly said following the guidelines did not remove all risk.
“Healthy adults drinking within the guideline recommendations have less than a one-in-100 chance of dying from an alcohol-related condition,” Professor Kelly said.
The guidelines will underpin health messaging and policy for years until they are next updated.
NHMRC chief Anne Kelso stressed authorities were not telling Australians how much to drink.
“We’re providing advice about the health risks so that we can all make informed decisions in our daily lives.”
The updated guidelines have been welcomed by the Alcohol and Drug Foundation. It said evidence showed the less people drank the lower their risk of injuries, illnesses, dependence and diseases such as cancer.
“The new guidelines will play a particularly important role for those Australians wanting to reduce their alcohol consumption after their drinking habits may have changed since the outbreak of COVID-19,” foundation chief Erin Lalor said.
What is a standard drink?
- 100 millilitres of wine
- 285 millilitres of full-strength beer or cider
- 425 millilitres of light beer
- 375 millilitres of mid-strength beer
- 30 millilitres of spirits
(Source: Australia and New Zealand food standards code)