By Andy Young, TheShout

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has released data, which has shown the apparent consumption of alcohol in Australia has increased for the first time in nine years.

The ABS’ apparent consumption measures the amount of alcohol available for consumption, based on excise, import and sales data, but does not measure actual consumption as it does not account for factors such as waste or storage. The estimates of apparent consumption of alcohol are based on availability of alcoholic beverages in Australia. It contains data on the quantity of pure alcohol available for consumption from beer, wine, spirits, ready to drink beverages and cider, plus estimates of the total volume of beer and wine available for consumption.

Louise Gates, ABS Director of Health Statistics, said: “In 2015-16, there were 189m litres of pure alcohol available for consumption, which is 9.7 litres for every person in Australia aged 15 years and over. This is the first time the annual figure has increased since 2006-07.

“This is contrary to the long-term trend where the pure alcohol consumption per capita has dropped from 12.9 litres per person in 1975-76 to 9.7 litres in 2015-16.”

On a per capita basis there were 9.7 litres of pure alcohol available for consumption per person in 2015-16, slightly more than the amount in 2014-15 (9.5 litres), however still less than the amount in 2013-14 (9.8 litres).

In terms of the different drinks categories, beer remains the biggest and was also a key driver in the overall growth.

In 2015-16 there were 75.4m litres of pure alcohol available for consumption in Australia in the form of beer, an increase of 4.5 per cent from the 72.1m litres available in 2014-15.

Full strength beer made up 81.3 per cent of all pure alcohol in beer available for consumption in 2015-16, followed by mid strength beer at 16.2 per cent and low strength beer at 2.5 per cent.

The per capita consumption of pure alcohol in beer also increased in 2015-16, but from 3.76 litres in 2014-15 to 3.87 litres.

The wine category saw an increase in the volume available from 70,219 litres to 70,862 litres in 2015-16, but a slight decrease in per capita consumption down from 3.66 litres in 2014-15 to 3.64.

The quantity of pure alcohol available for consumption in the form of spirits (excluding RTDs) increased by 3.5 per cent between 2014-15 and 2015-16, from 23.4m litres to 24.3m litres. The quantity of pure alcohol available for consumption in the form of RTDs increased by 3 per cent during this period, from 11m litres to 11.3m litres.

Spirits per capita consumption increased from 1.22 litres to 1.25 litres, while RTD consumption increased 0.57 litres to 0.58.

Cider was another category that saw strong growth with the volume of pure alcohol available increasing from a little of six million litres to 7.3m in 2015-16.

Fergus Taylor, Executive Director Alcohol Beverages Australia said it is important to recognise that this result has occurred while problem consumption has been decreasing, which shows the responsible drinking messages recommended by the alcohol beverages industry are getting through and making a positive difference to the way alcohol is consumed.

“The ABS study shows the long-term decline in consumption appears to have bottomed out, but supports the major studies this year that show the vast majority of Australians are enjoying their drinks more sensibly and in moderation,” Taylor said.

“Federal Government figures released in June by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare showed binge and underage drinking are down significantly, both longstanding positive trends for more than a decade.

“A Snapshot: Australian Drinking Habits: 2007 vs 2017, a significant study on Australians’ drinking habits released in August by DrinkWise also showed increases in moderate drinking and declines in drinking to excess that are consistent with the AIHW statistics.

“Australians have had a few more beers and ciders this year than last year, but overall they deserve a pat on the back for drinking more responsibly,” Taylor added.

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