Australian men and women should drink no more than 10 standard drinks each week to reduce the health risks associated with alcohol, according to new draft guidelines released this week.
The recommendations also state children and young people under 18, as well as women who are planning a pregnancy, pregnant or breastfeeding, should not drink any alcohol.
Released by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), an expert body in health and medical research that provides advice to government and the community, the new draft guidelines mark the first revision in a decade and involved analysis of studies and systematic reviews, a public call for evidence on the benefits and harms of alcohol, and looking at the health effects of alcohol from different levels of consumption.
The latest guidelines, which call for no more than 10 standard drinks per week and no more than four standard drinks on any one day, represent a shift from the previous advice of no more than two standard drinks a day, or 14 per week.
A standard drink, such as a small (100ml) glass of wine or a pot of beer, contains 10 grams of alcohol.
NHMRC CEO Professor Anne Kelso said the draft guidelines, open for public comment until 24 February, 2020, were developed over the past three years from the best health evidence available.
“We’re not telling Australians how much to drink,” she explained.
“We’re providing advice about the health risks from drinking alcohol so that we can all make informed decisions in our daily lives.”
In 2017, there were more than 4,000 alcohol-related deaths in Australia and across 2016-17 more than 17,000 hospital admissions.
Alcohol is also linked to more than 70 medical conditions including numerous cancers, diabetes, mental health issues and obesity.
Research has shown that nurses have higher levels of risky drinking than the general population and a current study from La Trobe University’s Centre for Alcohol and Policy Research (CAPR) is investigating the heavy alcohol consumption culture among nurses and lawyers in Victoria in a bid to curb problem drinking.
Professor Kelso said adhering to the draft guidelines of no more than 10 standard drinks per week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day would not entirely eliminate risk and that the less people chose to drink the safer it would be.
For women who are breastfeeding, she said not drinking alcohol is safest as while the risk to the fetus is low when a mother drinks small amounts of alcohol, there is insufficient evidence to rule out whether the fetus will be safe from harm.
Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, said the draft guidelines would help all Australians think about the risks of drinking alcohol and drink responsibly.
“If all Australians follow these guidelines we won’t stop every alcohol-related death, but we will save thousands of lives, especially younger lives.”