Current issues in alcohol

August 2011

FocusCurrent issues in alcohol

Risky drinking among young Australians

Causes, effects and implications for GPs

Volume 40, No.8, August 2011 Pages 584-588

Amy Pennay

Dan I Lubman

Sarah MacLean


Rates of risky drinking among young Australians have increased substantially over the past 2 decades, resulting in significant community concern.


To explore the social, cultural and economic contexts that underlie risky drinking among young people and the implications of these for general practitioners.


Effective strategies for reducing alcohol related harm among young people must be developed in the context of the social and cultural forces to which risky drinking is inextricably linked. It is important that GPs not only play the role of health provider (by identifying risky drinking where possible and providing harm reduction advice), but also act as public health advocates, using their position as respected health experts to encourage a shift in alcohol policy, legislation, marketing and promotion.

There is considerable community concern relating to risky or ‘binge’ drinking among young Australians. Research demonstrates that adolescents are starting to consume alcohol at a younger age1 and that rates of risky drinking among young people have increased substantially over the past 2 decades.2 Particularly concerning is that almost one in 4 young people aged 14–19 years report consuming alcohol at levels associated with short term harm on a monthly or weekly basis,3 and over 40% of those aged 16–24 years report having consumed more than 20 standard drinks on a single occasion.4 Short term harms associated with risky drinking include alcohol overdose or poisoning; accidents such as road trauma, drowning and falls; blackouts and memory loss; and sexual risk taking and violence.5

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