Australian drinking guidelines

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has published recommendations for drinking alcohol to avoid health risks. The Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol are based on evidence and understanding of the harms associated with drinking.

There are four key guidelines plus detailed information on how and why the guidelines have been developed. Additional health advice is also provided for particular groups, such as older people, people with a family history of alcohol dependence, and people who use illicit drugs.

What you need to know

There is no level of drinking alcohol that can be guaranteed to be completely ‘safe’ or ‘have no risk’. However, the guidelines advise on how healthy adults can minimise the risk of short and long-term harms.

For both women and men:

  • Drinking no more than two standard drinks on any day reduces your lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury. This recommendation is to reduce the longer-term risks of drinking such as cancers of the mouth, throat, oesophagus, bowel, liver, prostate and breast, and brain damage.
  • Drinking no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion reduces the risk of alcohol-related injury arising from that occasion. Short-term consequences of a drinking session may include accidents, injuries, and other harms associated with binge drinking.

For women who are pregnant or breastfeeding:

  • It is recommended that for women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, or who are breastfeeding, not drinking is the safest option.

For young people:

  • People under 18 years of age also should not drink alcohol at all.

For parents:

  • Parents and carers should be advised that children under 15 years of age are at the greatest risk of harm from drinking and that for this age group, not drinking alcohol is especially important.

How much is a standard drink?

A standard drink is any drink containing 10 grams of alcohol. One standard drink always contains the same amount of alcohol regardless of  the alcohol type. To see how many standard drinks are in different alcohol products, see the guide below;

Can/Stubbie low-strength beer ≈ 0.8 standard drink
Can/Stubbie mid-strength beer ≈ 1 standard drink
Can/Stubbie full-strength beer ≈ 1.4 standard drinks
100ml wine (13.5% alcohol) ≈ 1 standard drink
30ml nip spirits ≈ 1 standard drink
Can spirits (approx 5% alcohol) ≈ 1.2 to 1.7 standard drinks
Can spirits (approx 7% alcohol) ≈ 1.6 to 2.4 standard drinks

Further information

Visit the NHMRC website for more information about the guidelines.