National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) 2016 key findings released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW)

June 2017

Key findings from the 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) show that young people are continuing to drink and smoke less, while risky drinking increased among people in their 50s and 60s.

In 2016, the percentage of young people who consumed 5 or more standard drinks on a monthly basis fell to 42%, from 47% in 2013, and the numbers who abstained from alcohol increased significantly to 82%, from 72% in 2013.

Very high risk drinking (the consumption of 11 or more standard drinks on one drinking occasion) decreased among 12-17 year olds and 18-24 year olds but increased among older age groups. People in their 50s and 60s both reported an increase in risky drinking between 2013 and 2016, from 9.1% to 11.9% and from 4.7% to 6.1% respectively.

Smoking by teenagers reduced in 2016, with the proportion who had never smoked more than 100 cigarettes up to 98%, from 95% in 2013, and younger people continued to delay the take up of smoking.

Professor Michael Farrell, Director of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, said it is welcome to see that fewer young people are smoking and the age at which young people take up smoking has increased to 16.3 years from 15.9 years in 2013.

“However, it is disappointing that the rate of decline in smoking appears to have slowed for the first time in two decades.

“NDARC researchers are investigating how to increase the quit rate in lower socio economic groups – the sector of the population which, in contrast higher socio economic groups, have had far less success in quitting,” Professor Farrell said.

Crystal methamphetamine (ice) continued to be the preferred form of meth/amphetamine used in 2016 and while recent use declined between 2013 and 2016, the proportion using the drug remained stable.

“While there has been a decline in the reported recent use of methamphetamine, down to 1.4% from 2.1%, it is important to view this figure in context with other surveys such as the Injecting Drug Users Survey (IDRS) which reports trends among people who have injected drugs in the previous six months.

“Among this group, which represents the biggest market for crystal methamphetamine, we have seen recent use increase by six per cent year on year for the past three years.

“In our most recent survey in 2016, 73% of a sample of 877 injecting drug users, reported having used crystal methamphetamine in the previous six months,” Professor Farrell said.

For the first time, meth/amphetamines was the drug most likely to be nominated as a drug problem by Australians, showing a considerable change in people’s perceptions since 2013. Meth is now considered to be of more concern than any other drug (including alcohol) and a greater number of people thought of it as the drug that caused the most deaths in Australia.

The National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) collects information on alcohol and tobacco consumption, and illicit drug use among the general population in Australia. It also surveys people’s attitudes and perceptions relating to tobacco, alcohol and other drug use. Survey findings relate mainly to people aged 14 years or older.

You can view the National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) 2016 key findings on the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s website.