Australia’s infamous drinking culture appears to be waning with new results showing an overall decline in consumption, especially among people in their teens and early 20s.

Indeed, alcohol consumption rates in Australia are now at the lowest level since the early 1960s, say researchers.

The results from a study of 124,440 Australian adults show that recent declines in per-capita consumption appear to be driven by 2 major changes: (1) the ageing of heavier drinking population groups into lighter drinking stages of the life-course and (2) sharp reductions in drinking among recently born groups.

Alcohol consumption among Australians peaks in middle-age, between 40 and 60 years, say the researchers led by Dr Michael Livingston of Australia's Centre for Alcohol Policy Research at La Trobe University

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 they say 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.

“It is particularly noteworthy that we found both declining participation in drinking among these cohorts but also sharp declines in average consumption among those who do drink,” writes Dr Livingstone and colleagues in the journal Addiction.

They say the potential for these changes to result in long-term public health gain is high, given the body of research showing that drinking patterns while young are strong predictors of drinking problems later in life.

Last Reviewed: 29/06/2016

Reproduced with kind permission from


Understanding trends in Australian alcohol consumption—an age–period–cohort model.