Per capita alcohol consumption in Australia: will the real trend please step forward?
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Objective: To estimate the national trend in per capita consumption (PCC) of alcohol for Australians aged 15 years and older for the financial years 1990–91 to 2008–09. Design and setting: With the use of data obtained from Australian Bureau of Statistics’ catalogues and World Advertising Research Centre reports, three alternative series of annual totals of PCC of alcohol for the past 20 years (1990–91 to 2008–09) were estimated based on different assumptions about the alcohol content of wine. For the “old” series, the alcohol content of wine was assumed to have been stable over time. For the “new” series, the alcohol content of wine was assumed to have increased once in 2004–05 and then to have remained stable to 2008–09. For the “adjusted” series, the alcohol content of wine was assumed to have gradually increased over time, beginning in 1998–99. Linear trend analysis was applied to identify significant trends. Main outcomes measure: National trend in annual PCC of alcohol 1990–91 to 2008–09.Results: The new and adjusted series of annual totals of PCC of alcohol showed increasing trends; the old series was stable. Conclusions: Until recently, official national annual totals of PCC of alcohol were underestimated and led to the mistaken impression that levels of alcohol consumption had been stable since the early 1990s. In fact, Australia’s total PCC has been increasing significantly over time because of a gradual increase in the alcohol content and market share of wine and is now at one of its highest points since 1991–92. This new information is consistent with evidence of increasing alcohol-related harm and highlights the need for timely and accurate data on alcohol sales and harms across Australia.
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