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The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) hosted the Out of sight, out of mind: Australia’s alcohol guidelines public seminar this month.

It has been nearly three years since the release and promotion of the current NHMRC drinking guidelines and according to the research, little has been the impact of the ‘guidelines’ on the Aussie drinking culture. The ‘guidelines’ recommend no more than 4 standard drinks in a 6 hour period before putting yourself at risk. Yet a 2010 survey/evaluation conducted by Michael Livingston of Turning Point yielded some disturbing results;

  1. 40% or men and 45% of women couldn’t even estimate what ‘low risk’ drinking may look like
  2. 15% of men estimated about 11 drinks per sitting as the recommendation
  3. 20% women estimated 6 or more drinks in one sitting
  4. Average estimation for teenagers was 9 + drinks per sitting
  5. Of the other respondents only 5% got close to the guidelines  (1)

Whilst that was concerning, there was some ‘silver-lining’, with women in general being more conservative about estimating limits, including about 10% of women stating they thought no drinks per day was low risk. It would appear the ladies are paying a little more attention. This was also borne out around guideline 4 concerning alcohol consumption and pregnancy. According to Professor Carol Bower a survey conducted on Health Care Professionals (HCP) on engaging women/pregnancy/alcohol produced the following results.

  1. 90% of women in child bearing age agree drinking during pregnancy could damage the baby.
  2. 91% of women surveyed felt HCP should advise women to stop drinking during pregnancy
  3. 98% of HCP had recommended no alcohol during pregnancy
  4. However, 32% women stated the would continue to drink during pregnancy
  5. 47% of women alcohol before pregnancy was confirmed, after confirmation went to 19.5%
  6. However, 90% of 25 year old women stopped drinking when pregnancy was confirmed. (2)

Any learning facilitator understands ‘information alone does not change behaviour’ and if the current guidelines are to have any increased impact on current drinking trends, some key additions will need to be made.

Stronger promotion of the guidelines with a far more conservative approach to use to minimise ‘guidelines’ becoming the ‘benchmark’ for drinking.

Information to be couched/promoted in the context of harms done by ethanol to different demographics including long term impact for older consumers and Heavy Episodic Consumption impact on the developing brain of the young.

More aggressive promotion of abstinence based options including focus on alcohol free days and delay of uptake of any alcohol consumption.

Communications LiaisonThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

1. The 2009 NHMRC Guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol” Does anyone know about them? By Michael Livingston -Turning Point
2. Alcohol and pregnancy guidelines: What does the evidence tell us? Prof Carol Bower - Telethon Institute of Child Health and Research.

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