Alcohol Change Australia has called for urgent government action to address the public’s widespread lack of alcohol health risk awareness.
Its new report, Public Opinion on Alcohol in Australia, was based on an online survey of 2,000 Australian adults.
Conducted in September 2023, the survey revealed that 8 in 10 Australians were concerned about the harm caused by alcohol, while 63% agreed the country faced a substantial problem with alcohol.
Around half of those surveyed did not know the standard drink limits for reducing the risk of alcohol-related accident, injury or disease. Less than half were aware alcohol could cause cancer and only 14% recognised it as a cause of breast cancer.
The report outlined how alcohol could cause at least seven types of cancer – including cancers of the mouth, throat, liver, breast and bowel – and was responsible for more than 4,500 deaths and 80,000 hospitalisations in Australia, each year.
Alcohol Change Australia executive officer Hannah Pierce said lack of awareness surrounding the health damage caused by alcohol was deeply concerning. However there were a range of evidence-based initiatives available that would help build knowledge and reduce harm.
“The alcohol industry invests substantial resources into the promotion of its products, overshadowing the associated harms – which include injuries, diseases and even deaths,” she said.
“The lack of awareness surrounding alcohol’s health risks is a worrying blind spot, but in some ways unsurprising given we are bombarded with enticing messages and imagery encouraging alcohol use.”
Ms Pierce said too many Australians were in the dark about the health risks and particularly the link between alcohol and cancer.
“Stronger restrictions on alcohol marketing and action to address cheap alcohol, coupled with greater investment in public education campaigns and the introduction of a health warning label, would go a long way in improving the health and wellbeing of all Australians,” she said.
Alcohol Change Australia chair, Dr Erin Lalor, said there was strong public backing for immediate and comprehensive policy reforms to tackle the growing issue.
“This report shows 7 in 10 Australians think that governments must take more significant steps to reduce alcohol-caused harms,” she said.
“All this data points to the fact that alcohol reforms would not only benefit our national health but also enjoy broad support.”
Alcohol Change Australia is a collaborative alliance comprising diverse health and community organisations from across the nation. Its collective mission is to combat and diminish the impact of alcohol-related harm on individuals, families, and communities throughout Australia.