Knowledge and beliefs about alcohol consumption, longer-term health risks, and the link with cancer in a sample of Australian adults

N S W Public Health Bull. 2013 Nov;24(2):81-6. doi: 10.1071/NB12089.


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.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Chronic Disease / prevention & control
  • Chronic Disease / psychology
  • Female
  • Guidelines as Topic*
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Life Style*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Neoplasms / psychology
  • New South Wales / epidemiology
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult