Australian alcohol guidelines

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Do you know the max number of standard drinks recommended in a day? What about in a week? Take the guesswork out of drinking and check out the new alcohol guidelines.

Based on the latest scientific evidence, these guidelines were developed by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in 2020 to help reduce the risk of alcohol-related harm and improve the health of Australians.

The new guidelines

While there is no safe level of drinking, the guidelines provide a framework for how to stay healthy and protect you and your family from alcohol-related harms.

The guidelines recommend that:

  • To reduce your risk of injury and disease including cancer, keep it to 10 or less standard drinks a week. Have no more than 4 standard drinks in one day to reduce your risk of injury and accidents.
  • Anyone under 18 should not drink alcohol to help prevent negative impacts on the developing brain and riskier levels of drinking when they are older. (Information for parents)
  • Those who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy should not drink alcohol to reduce harm to their unborn child.
  • Women who are breastfeeding should avoid drinking alcohol as it is safest for the health and development of their baby.

For a more in-depth look into the guidelines, read our Insight article.

What’s a standard drink?

It can be difficult to keep track of how much alcohol you are consuming because different types of drinks contain different amounts of alcohol and come in different sizes.

A standard drink might be less than you think. For example, a bottle of beer or a glass of wine is often more than a 'standard drink'.

An Australian standard drink contains 10g of alcohol (12.5ml of pure alcohol). One standard drink is 285ml of full-strength beer, a 100ml glass of wine, or 30ml of spirits.

Tracking how many standard drinks you’re consuming can help you follow the guidelines so you can stay as healthy as possible.

Know your standard drinks
  • Spirits 40% alcohol, 30ml nip
  • Wine 13% alcohol, 100ml average serving
  • Sparkling wine 13% alcohol, 100ml
  • Full strength beer 4.9% alcohol, 285ml glass
  • Light beer 2.7% alcohol, 425ml glass
  • Cider 4.9% alcohol, 285ml glass

Check out the Drinking Calculator to find out how your drinking measures up.

Information for parents

Guidelines for children and teens under 18

The NHMRC guidelines state that children and teens under 18 should not drink any alcohol. Drinking alcohol can impact brain development up until the age of 25 years – affecting their attention, memory and decision-making.

There are also concerns that early use of alcohol and other drugs by a young person can increase the likelihood of dependence (addiction) and harm in the future.

Preventing or delaying young people using alcohol or other drugs

Having open conversations about alcohol and other drugs is an important part of preparing a young person for situations where they may be around alcohol and other drugs. You can start this conversation from as early as eight years old, to give them the right information and attitudes before they go to high school.

The Other Talk

Tips for talking to young people

Even though it might seem like they don't listen to a word you say, your kids are watching what you do. Parents play a significant and powerful role in shaping their child’s beliefs and attitudes about alcohol, through their role-modelling.

Whether you're drinking frequently, or having fun and attending social gatherings without always relying on alcohol, watching their parents' behaviour can shape a young person’s understanding of the role alcohol may, or may not, play in their life.

Parents as role models

How were the guidelines developed?

The guidelines were developed by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), the leading expert body in health and medical research in Australia.

The NHMRC uses a rigorous process to develop and review guidelines, which includes an independent expert review and a period of public consultation for stakeholders.

Related content

The ADF received funding from the Australian Government Department of Health.