How alcohol impacts our health
Alcohol affects everyone in different ways, but it can impact our health both in the short and long term.
Alcohol can affect your body soon after it is consumed. Common short-term effects (depending on the amount consumed) can include impaired balance/coordination, impaired judgement and movement, loss of bladder control, memory loss, nausea/vomiting, possible loss of consciousness, reduced inhibitions, sleepy, and slurred speech. In extreme cases it can lead to coma or death.
Long-term health effects are usually seen if you are drinking above the guideline recommendations (see below). This includes brain damage, cancers, fertility issues, heart issues, increased risk of diabetes, liver failure, mental health issues and substance abuse.
The marketing of alcohol in Australia is largely unregulated. There are lots of products with health claims such as being low-carb and sugar free – these products are generally not any better for you. Health claims may lead you to drink more of the product, however the alcohol content is roughly the same and it is important to remember that it is the alcohol content that increases your risk of harm in the short and long term.
What do the guidelines recommend?
The current Australian guidelines to reduce the health risks of drinking alcohol are to have no more than 10 standard drinks a week and no more than four standard drinks on any one day. The less you drink, the lower your risk of harm from alcohol.
Alcohol content of common drinks
In Australia, a standard drink is equal to 10g or 12.5ml of pure alcohol. This is roughly how much a human body can process in one hour. This can vary depending on age, weight, gender, fitness level, fatigue, and how much you have eaten before drinking.
It can be hard to keep track of how much you have had – especially when alcoholic drinks are of different strengths and serving sizes. One alcoholic drink does not always equal one standard drink.
A guide to some common alcoholic drinks:
Category Variety Standard drinks (approx.) Beer
375ml low-strength beer (2.7% alcohol)
0.8 375ml mid-strength beer (3.5% alcohol)
1 375ml full-strength beer (4.8% alcohol)
30ml spirits (40% alcohol)
1 275ml pre-mixed spirits (5% alcohol) 1.1 330ml pre-mixed spirits (5% alcohol) 1.2 375ml pre-mixed spirits (5% alcohol) 1.5 Red wine
100ml (13.5% alcohol) 1 150ml (13.5% alcohol) 1.6 White wine 100ml (11.5% alcohol) 0.9 150ml (11.5% alcohol) 1.4
Tips for managing alcohol intake
Reduce your risk of harm from alcohol may include:
1. Add water
- Keep hydrated and have a glass of water in between alcoholic drinks.
- Add soda water to your alcoholic drinks to make a refreshing summer spritzer.
2. Implement alcohol-free days
- Listen to your body and have some alcohol-free days.
- Volunteer to be the designated driver if you want to avoid peer pressure and save some money.
3. Shake it up
- Choose a mocktail or sparkling water flavoured with fresh fruit instead of an alcoholic drink.
- Pour your non-alcoholic drink into a wine glass or try some of the alcohol-free options that are on the market.