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New study shows a generational shift toward lighter drinking in Australia

June 28, 2016

Alcohol consumption in Australia has declined steadily during the past decade, with per capita consumption in 2013-14 reaching its lowest level since the early 1960s. A new study published today by the scientific journal Addiction shows that the overall decline in drinking is due mainly to less drinking among people in their teens and early twenties.

A study led by Dr Michael Livingston of Australia's Centre for Alcohol Policy Research at La Trobe University analysed the drinking habits of 124,440 Australians aged 14 to 79 years, surveyed over 18 years. The results show that recent declines in per-capita consumption appear to be driven by two major changes: (1) the ageing of heavier drinking cohorts into lighter drinking stages of the life-course and (2) sharp reductions in drinking among recently born cohorts.

Alcohol consumption among Australians peaks in middle-age, between 40 and 60 years. As drinkers move into their 60s and 70s, they tend to ease up, a trend that helps to explain the recent decline in drinking.

But the main driver of reduced drinking in Australia is the markedly less drinking among Australians born in the 1990s, suggesting that a significant generational shift is underway.

This shift has the potential to create long-term public health gains, given the body of research showing that the drinking patterns established while people are young are strong predictors of drinking problems later in life.
-end-
For editors:

Livingston M, Raninen J, Slade T, Swift W, Lloyd B, and Deitze P (2016) Understanding trends in Australian alcohol consumption: An age-period-cohort model. Addiction 111: doi: 10.1111/add.13396

This paper is free to download for one month after publication from the Wiley Online Library or by contacting Jean O'Reilly, Editorial Manager, Addiction, jean@addictionjournal.org, tel +44 (0)20 7848 0853.

Media seeking interviews with Dr Michael Livingston should contact Catherine Garrett, Media and Communications Unit, La Trobe University: (03) 94796565 / 0418 964 325 / c.garrett@latrobe.edu.au

Addiction is a monthly international scientific journal publishing peer-reviewed research reports on alcohol, illicit drugs, tobacco, and gambling as well as editorials and other debate pieces. Owned by the Society for the Study of Addiction, it has been in continuous publication since 1884. Addiction is the number one journal in the 2016 ISI Journal Citation Reports ranking in the substance abuse category for both science and social science editions.

Society for the Study of Addiction

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