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Examining Australia's heaviest drinkers

journal contribution
posted on 2020-12-10, 05:17 authored by Michael LivingstonMichael Livingston, Sarah CallinanSarah Callinan
© 2019 The Authors Objective: This study examined the distribution of alcohol consumption in Australia, identifying the heaviest drinking 10% of the population and examining their sociodemographic characteristics and their alcohol consumption and purchasing practices. Methods: Data came from the 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey and the 2013 International Alcohol Control Study. The heaviest drinking 10% of the population identified based on estimates of annual alcohol consumption. Logistic regression was then used to assess the factors that distinguished these heaviest drinkers from the rest of the drinking population. Results: The heaviest drinking 10% of the population consumed 54.4% of all alcohol consumed. These heavy drinkers were more likely to be men and to live in regional and remote areas. They were more likely to drink cask wine and full-strength beer and to purchase cheaper alcohol than other drinkers. Conclusions: Australian alcohol consumption is heavily skewed. Alcohol consumption practices appear to differentiate the heaviest drinkers from others more clearly than sociodemographic factors. Implications for public health: Public health interventions that reduce drinking among the heaviest 10% of drinkers in Australia have the potential to markedly reduce per-capita consumption and reduce alcohol-related harm. Interventions focused on cheap alcohol may be effective with these drinkers.


The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare manage the data collection and dissemination of the National Drug Strategy Household Survey and we are grateful to them for facilitating access to the data via the Australian Data Archive. The funding source for the International Alcohol Control data used in this article is the Australian National Preventive Health Agency (Grant Ref. 157ROO2011). The contents of this article are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not reflect the views of the Australian National Preventive Health Agency This research was part supported under Australian Research Council's Discovery Projects funding scheme (project number DP150101024). ML is supported by an NHMRC Career Development Fellowship (1123840) and SC is supported by an ARC Discovery Early Career Research Award (180100016). The Centre for Alcohol Policy Research is co-funded by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education, an independent, charitable organization working to prevent the harmful use of alcohol in Australia (


Publication Date



Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health






6p. (p. 451-456)





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