Australian drinkers’ perceptions of alcohol-related risk by consumption status
This study investigated Australian drinkers’ alcohol-related beliefs according to their alcohol risk status. The primary aims were to assess drinkers’ awareness of the association between alcohol consumption and a range of health consequences and their understanding of the degree of risk represented by their own alcohol consumption.
An online survey was administered to 2168 drinkers who consume alcohol at least twice per month. Respondents reported their alcohol intake levels and their beliefs relating to the relationship between alcohol and shorter-term (proximal) risks (e.g., drink-driving) and longer-term (distal) risks (e.g., stroke and cancer).
Just over half (52%) of those drinking at high or very high risk levels did not perceive their drinking to be harmful. A large majority (85%) of the sample was aware of various short-term risks of excessive alcohol consumption, but only half appeared aware of the association between alcohol consumption and more distal health conditions.
The relatively low levels of awareness of the alcohol–disease link and the weak relationship between perceived risk and alcohol consumption levels suggest that attempts to reduce current high levels of alcohol-related harm could include public education campaigns designed to (i) improve drinkers’ understanding of the prevalence of alcohol-related harms upon which current alcohol guidelines are based, (ii) prompt drinkers to review their intake levels in the light of the guidelines to assess their potential risk of harm, and (iii) make alcohol-related risks more salient to every-day consumption decisions.