Developing health promotion messages to encourage responsible drinking practices

June 2017

Professor Tanya Chikritzhs

Other investigators: 

Professor Simone Pettigrew, Curtin University (Lead Investigator)
Professor Melanie Wakefield, Cancer Council Victoria
Professor Kypros Kypri, University of Newcastle
Associate Professor Penelope Hasking, Curtin University
Dr Michelle Jongenelis, Curtin University

Project description: 

Australians are heavy drinkers by world standards. Within Australia, Western Australians are at higher risk of alcohol-related harm than drinkers elsewhere in the country. We have the highest prevalence of drinking at levels associated with long-term harm and the second-highest prevalence of drinking at levels associated with short-term harm (known as binge drinking or heavy episodic drinking). While many young people are starting to modify their drinking to reduce their risk of alcohol-related harm, older Australians are generally not changing their behaviour and many are continuing to consume alcohol at harmful levels. This indicates that mature Australians do not interpret current harm-reduction messages as being targeted at or relevant to themselves.

Broader-based interventions are thus needed to address a heavy drinking culture that involves regular engagement in heavy episodic drinking among many alcohol consumers. Numerous ‘responsible drinking practices’ have been proposed to be potentially effective in reducing alcohol-related harm. These include behaviours such as counting the number of drinks consumed, eating before drinking, avoiding engaging in drinking games, and drinking slowly (no sculling). The limited evidence pertaining to these practices is almost entirely based on data collected from youth samples in the United States, and it is therefore unknown whether these practices are associated with harm reduction among adult Australian drinkers. Also unknown is whether these drinking practices would be considered acceptable and personally relevant by adult drinkers. To address these knowledge gaps, this study will (i) identify responsible drinking practices that are effective in reducing alcohol consumption among the adult drinking population and (ii) develop messages that can be used to encourage higher levels of enactment of those responsible drinking practices that are most likely to reduce total alcohol intake and discourage binge drinking consumption patterns.