Aussies’ alcohol consumption underestimated
AUSTRALIA’S per capita alcohol consumption (PCC) has been underestimated for decades, researchers believe, raising questions over the validity of recent debate about alcohol policy.
Australian Bureau of Statistics PCC estimates have not reflected the gradual increase in the alcohol content of table wine since the late 1980s, say Australian authors, led by Associate Professor Tanya Chikritzhs from the Curtin University of Technology’s National Drug Research Institute.
While previous estimates seemed to show alcohol consumption had remained stable since the early 1990s, when the increased alcohol content of wine and the increased market share of wine were taken into account, consumption has actually increased.
After adjusting for these factors, they estimated PCC had risen to 10.2 litres per person aged 15 years or more in 2008-09. This was up from 9.65 litres per person in 1990-1. Using previous ABS estimates, consumption had remained stable at around 9.8 litres per person throughout this period.
“Debates about Australian alcohol policy has accordingly been conducted on the mistaken assumption that PCC remained stable for over a decade, when in fact it has steadily increased,” the authors said.
“Alcohol consumption in Australia is now at one of the highest points since 1991-92 and probably would have been higher if not for the impact of an increase in April 2008 of excise tax on ready-to-drink spirit-based products,” the authors said.
“This new information is consistent with evidence of increasing alcohol-related harm and highlights the need for timely and accurate data on alcohol sales and harms across Australia,” the authors said.
Average alcohol content for all wines increased from 11.2% in the early 1990s to 12.7% now and market share of wine increased from around 25% to 35% for the same period, the authors estimated.
The alcohol content of wine had gradually increased over the past decade due to winemakers using highly ripened fruit to enrich the flavour of wines, thereby producing more alcohol during fermentation, the authors said.