In some ways this week’s release of the total alcohol consumption figure are a good indicator of significant improvements in our lifestyle habits. On the other it shows how far we still have to go to control what is the single most damaging drug in the country.
The ABS data shows 186 million litres of pure alcohol was consumed across the nation in 2016-17, the lowest figure since 1961-62. But this still equates to 9.4 litres of pure alcohol for every person aged 15 years or more, a figure the bureau uses to cover the wide range of alcoholic drinks. If it doesn't seem like much, broken down it might be clearer; equating to an average of 224 stubbies of beer, 38 bottles of wine, 17 bottles of cider, 33 cans of pre-mixed drinks and four bottles of spirits.
All of this isn't a huge amount over a year and many areas have seen drops; beer is down 3.4 per cent less pure alcohol or 2.6 million litres in 2016-17 compared to the year before, registering a continual slide since the 1970s.
What is apparent with these continual drops – and this is good news to a nimble market dedicated to quality -people are drinking less in volume. But rising revenue indicates they may be preferencing better quality. All this adds up to better results for heath, industry and social outcomes.
But the figures are also sufficiently incomplete to get a full picture of what drinking habits are like let alone some of the more dire social repercussions such as family violence.
Because the figure is based on the amount of alcohol available for consumption across the nation it can account for storage or waste and so overestimate the amount of alcohol consumed.
But it also might underestimate the true level of alcohol drunk by each Australian, given about a fifth simply don't drink at all, not to mention all those who only drink occasionally; so the figure for problem drinkers starts to look a lot more serious.
It may be the lowest level in 65 years and part of a downward trend since 2008 but there is still much to do to make responsible drinking more than a slogan.