How alcohol affects your health

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 new revised Australian Alcohol Guidelines here.

A standard drink is often less than you think. You can learn more about standard drinks here.

This page contains further information about alcohol and how it affects your health.

Stress, anxiety, and mental health 

Drinking less can improve your mood and energy levels.

Alcohol is a depressant and can have a negative effect on your mental health.

This is because:

  • Alcohol depresses the central nervous system. It slows breathing, heart rate and brain functioning.
  • Alcohol is associated with mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.
  • Drinking alcohol increases the level of cortisol in the blood, which affects our ability to deal effectively with stress.

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

Alcohol, even in small quantities, can affect your quality of sleep. 

Alcohol results in sleep being shallower and less restorative. Alcohol is also a diuretic, which leads to needing to get up frequently 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.

Short-term health problems

Drinking alcohol at risky levels can result in a range of short-term harms. 

Intoxication can cause an adverse hangover and hangxiety consequences. 

Injuries when intoxicated can be serious, including head injuries, broken bones and soft tissue injuries.

Chronic health problems

Several serious chronic diseases are caused by consuming alcohol over the long term.

Alcohol increases your risk of developing eight types of cancer, particularly cancers of the mouth, throat, oesophagus, stomach, bowel, liver and breast.

You can learn more about alcohol and cancer here.

Alcohol use can increase heart rate. It also increases the risk of cardiovascular diseaseIn the longer term alcohol use can lead to on-going increased heart rate, high blood pressure, weakened heart muscle, and irregular heartbeat, which lead to heart attack and stroke. 

You can learn more about alcohol and cardiovascular disease here.

Planning a pregnancy, pregnancy and breastfeeding

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy, even in small amounts, can harm your baby and may have lifelong effects, including Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Drinking alcohol can also lead to low birth weight, miscarriage and still birth.   

You can learn more about alcohol and pregnancy here.

Australia’s drinking guidelines state when pregnant or planning a pregnancy you should not drink alcohol. This is best for the health of the baby.

When breastfeeding, not drinking alcohol is safest for the baby.

If you have consumed alcohol while pregnant and are concerned, or are having trouble stopping drinking, you should talk to your doctor, midwife or obstetrician.  

For advice and support you can also call the NOFASD Helpline: 1800 860 613 It