How alcohol affects your health

Drinking alcohol causes a range of health problems, from sleep disturbance and lack of energy to serious diseases like cancer and heart disease.

The less you drink, the healthier you are.

If you drink alcohol, the Australian Alcohol Guidelines recommend you have no more than four standard drinks on any one day – and no more than ten in a week.

You can learn more about the Australian Alcohol Guidelines here.

Want to know what a ‘standard drink’ is? Learn more here.


Long-term impacts of alcohol on your health

Drinking less will reduce your risk of serious disease.

Alcohol is a cancer-causing substance. It can cause breast cancer in women, cancer of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, bowel, liver, pancreas, and stomach.

Drinking alcohol can also lead to heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, and inflammation of the pancreas and liver.

Every drink you have increases the risk of these conditions.

Read more about the high cost of alcohol to your health here.


Short-term impacts of alcohol on your health

Drinking less and within the Alcohol Guidelines can reduce your risk of injury and other short-term harm, which can have far-reaching impact. 

Intoxication impairs co-ordination, slows reflexes, and can lead to accidents and injury, hangovers, and ‘hangxiety’.  

Alcohol also adds to calorie intake, making it more difficult to avoid weight gain.


Stress, anxiety, and mental health

Drinking less can improve your mood.

Alcohol is a depressant and is associated with mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.

Drinking alcohol increases the production of cortisol, which affects our ability to deal effectively with stress. It also depresses the central nervous system, slowing brain functioning.

You can learn more about the impact of alcohol on your mental health here and here.

There are many healthy ways to ease stress and anxiety.


Sleep disturbance

Drinking less can improve the quality of your sleep.

Drinking alcohol, even in small amounts, disrupts your body’s capacity to enter deep restorative sleep. If you wake up in the night after drinking, it’s because alcohol increases production of epinephrine, a stress hormone that increases heart rate and stimulates the body.

Alcohol is also a diuretic, which means you need to get up in the night to visit the bathroom.

You can learn more about how alcohol affects sleep here.

Here are some ideas for getting a good night’s sleep.


Pregnant or planning a pregnancy

If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, the Australian Alcohol Guidelines advise that you should not drink alcohol.

For further advice about alcohol if you’re planning a pregnancypregnant or breastfeeding – or know someone who is – see Pregnant Pause.

Are you a woman in the ACT aged 40-65? Want to participate in a study to test effective ways to reduce the amount you drink?

About the Ripple project

Benefits of cutting back alcohol

Invisible influences on your drinking

Practical tips for cutting back

Need more help and support?

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