Hard to swallow: could Australians really be drinking less beer?

04 May, 2012

Australia's reputation as a beer-swilling nation is on the line.

Beer quaffing plunged to a 65-year low in 2010-11 as we managed only 4.23 litres each, CommSec analyst Savanth Sebastian says in an economic insight report.

"Australia used to be a beer-drinking nation," Sebastian says.

"That has changed, just like a whole host of other things."

Wine and beer consumption were neck and neck at the end of June last year but we might already be drinking more wine than beer, Sebastian comments.

Drinking spirits is also on the rise, but overall alcohol consumption fell in the last financial year for a fourth straight time and is now down at nine-year lows, he says.

"Perhaps it's all about quality not quantity," the report states.

"Or perhaps Aussies are taking health matters seriously."

Australians are also spending less on cigarettes and take-away food, according to the report.

Australian beer drinking fell from 4.45 litres of pure alcohol per person (aged 15 years or more) to 4.23 litres in 2010-11 compared with the previous year.

Consumption of full-strength beer fell from 3.67 litres to 3.49 litres.

Mid-strength fell from 0.57 litres to 0.56 litres, while low-strength fell from 0.22 litres to 0.18 litres.

Total apparent consumption of alcohol fell for the fourth straight year, down from 10.27 litres of pure alcohol per person to 9.99 litres per person.

As a standard drink consists of 12.5ml of pure alcohol, this is equivalent to an average of 2.2 standard drinks per day per person aged 15 years and over, Sebastian said.

However, these figures are incongruous with recent assertions by a number of lobby groups, which say Australians are drinking more alcohol over longer stretches of time than ever before.

"When we drink we don't just have a couple of drinks, we drink for six to eight hours," HSM business development manager Jamie Moore said of the local culture.

And National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre director professor Michael Farrell asserted: "They're not just drinking more, but the drinking episodes are heavier than they were."

Perhaps only one thing is clear when it comes to Australia's drinking habits - the truth is as cloudy as a good Weiss.

Are we drinking more beer or less than we used to?

Source: AAP