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Drug Alcohol Rev. 2012 Mar;31(2):224-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1465-3362.2011.00414.x. Epub 2012 Jan 6.

Perceptions of low-risk drinking levels among Australians during a period of change in the official drinking guidelines.

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Centre for Alcohol Policy Research, Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre, Fitzroy, VIC 3065, Australia.



In 2009, the National Health and Medical Research Council released a revision of Australia's official low-risk alcohol guidelines, specifying low-risk consumption levels for both short- and long-term consumption. This study aims to assess how the general population's assessment of low-risk drinking levels compares to these guidelines and to examine whether the changes to the official guidelines corresponded with changes in perceptions of low-risk drinking levels in the population.


The study uses two waves of a large, general population survey which was run in 2007 (n = 19 818) and 2010 (n = 26 648), providing before and after measures of respondents' estimates of low-risk drinking levels.


In the 2010 survey, less than 5% of respondents estimated low-risk drinking levels that matched those in the 2009 guidelines. Generally speaking, younger respondents and heavier drinkers provided higher estimates of low-risk drinking thresholds. There was little change in estimates between 2007 and 2010, although there was some evidence that the changes to the guidelines had influenced perceptions of safe drinking.


There is very little knowledge of the official drinking guidelines among the general Australian population. If drinking guidelines are to have any effect on levels of consumption, a more concerted effort to publicise them is necessary.

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