Alcohol consumption, even at low-levels, can not be guaranteed as safe or risk free. Specifically, the 2009 Australian National Health and Medical Research Council drinking guidelines recommend that adults should not drink more than two standard drinks on any day on average, and no more than four drinks on a single occasion. Nearly 40% of Australians aged 12 years and older drink alcohol but don’t exceed these recommended limits, yet adult low-risk drinkers have been largely overlooked in Australian alcohol survey research, where they are usually grouped with abstainers. This paper examines the socio-demographic profile of low-risk drinking adults (18+ years old), compared to those who abstain.
Data from the 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey were used. In the past 12 months, 4796 Australians had not consumed alcohol and 8734 had consumed alcohol at low-risk levels, accounting for both average volume and episodic drinking (hereafter low-risk).
Multivariate logistic regression results indicated that low-risk drinkers were more likely to be older, married, Australian-born, and reside in a less disadvantaged neighbourhood compared with abstainers. There was no significant difference by sex between low-risk drinkers and abstainers.
The socio-demographic profile of low-risk drinkers differed from that of abstainers. Combining low-risk drinkers and abstainers into a single group, which is often the practice in survey research, may mask important differences. The study may support improved targeting of health promotion initiatives that encourage low-risk drinkers not to increase consumption or, in view of increasing evidence that low-risk drinking is not risk free, to move towards abstinence.