Our 2012 Annual Alcohol Poll found that Australians are largely unaware of the number of standard drinks in various alcohol products. The poll found that the majority of people are unable to estimate the number of standard drinks within 10% of the correct answer for all four products. Let’s take a 4 litre cask of white wine for example. Only 3% of Australian drinkers are able to estimate the number of standard drinks in cask wine within 10% of the correct answer. For a bottle of red wine, 12% of people are able to provide estimates within 10%, for a bottle of spirits it is 26% and for 375ml of full strength beer it is 31%.
Of greatest concern is the large number of people that are underestimating the number of standard drinks. People were again given a 10% error margin for their responses. Even still, 66% of people underestimate the number of standard drinks in a bottle of red wine. For a 4 litre cask of white wine, the corresponding figure is 47%, it’s 31% for a bottle of spirits and 27% for a 375ml of full strength beer.
Why is this important?
Having an awareness of what constitutes a standard drink is important for a range of health and social reasons. To know if you’re okay to drive, people need to understand how many standard drinks they’ve had. Also, to know if people are consuming alcohol at low risk levels and within the Alcohol Guidelines, people need to know how many standard drinks they’ve had.
What can we do to improve awareness of standard drinks?
Australia’s official alcohol guidelines, the National Health and Medical Research Council Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol were last revised in 2009. Three years on, our poll has found that people are largely unaware of the guidelines. Only 14% of Australians stated that they are familiar with the content of the Guidelines.
A public education campaign is needed to inform Australians of what a standard drink is and how to consume alcohol while also reducing their risk of harms. The campaign needs to involve a range of media and should include messages targeted at different at-risk groups including young people, women of child bearing ages and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.