Aim: This study explores knowledge and beliefs about longer-term health risks related to alcohol consumption among Australian adults.
Methods: Data were drawn from the 2009 Cancer Institute NSW Lifestyle and Cancer Survey, a telephone survey of adults in NSW. Participants (n=1255) were asked about their alcohol consumption, knowledge of the Australian guidelines (revised in 2009), and personal perceptions and beliefs about longer-term health risks from alcohol consumption.
Results: Seventy-eight percent of the sample drank alcohol either occasionally or weekly, with 37% of drinkers drinking above the current Australian guidelines (two standard drinks on any day). Two-thirds (67%) correctly nominated the maximum number of standard drinks per day that met the current Australian guidelines, and a similar proportion (64%) agreed that regular moderate alcohol consumption can have serious health consequences in the longer term. Knowledge of the guidelines and longer-term health consequences was lower for drinkers, especially those drinking above the guidelines. Less than half (48%) of the participants were aware that drinking alcohol could cause cancer and 51% were aware that limiting alcohol intake helps prevent cancer.
Conclusion: The current Australian guidelines, the longer-term health risks and the link with cancer are not well understood, especially by those who drink frequently and above the guidelines.