No impact from safe alcohol use campaign
A major overhaul of guidelines for the safe consumption of alcohol seems to have had no impact on Australians.
Only 5 per cent of the population can identify safe drinking levels nominated in the National Health and Medical Research Council's guidelines for reducing health risks from alcohol consumption.
The latest guidelines, which were published in 2009, say women and men can reduce their lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury by having a maximum of two standard alcoholic drinks a day.
It also recommends men and women consume no more than four standard drinks on any single occasion.
But research conducted by the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research found that many young men aged between 14 and 19 estimated they could safely consume more than eight drinks.
Women of the same age believed they could consume more than six drinks.
Study author Michael Livingston said heavy drinkers tended to overestimate the number of beverages they could safely consume.
''It's clear that there is a group of people who are putting themselves at quite serious risk of harm and that's an area we should be working in and improving knowledge in,'' he said.
Mr Livingston said more public education was needed to make people aware of the guidelines.
The previous guidelines, published in 2001, advised men to avoid having more than four drinks a day, and women more than two drinks a day.
It recommended that men consume no more than six and women no more than four drinks on a single occasion.
Draft guidelines released for comment in 2007 recommended men and women have no more than two drinks a day.
Mr Livingston said people were likely to be confused about different pieces of information they had read or heard about alcohol consumption.
''There's a lot of information floating out there about alcohol,'' he said.
''It is a confusing issue for people.''
Mr Livingston assessed people's knowledge of the guidelines using data from the 2007 and 2010 National Drug Strategy Survey which had 26,000 respondents.
The survey results showed that 21 per cent of males and 15 per cent of females accurately estimated they should consume no more than two drinks a day to reduce the risk of long-term harm.
But only 7 per cent of males and 8 per cent of females accurately estimated they should consume no more than four drinks per occasion to reduce the risk of short-term harm.
Seventy per cent of young people aged between 14 and 19 overestimated the number of drinks that could be consumed in one session to avoid short-term harm.
Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education chief executive Michael Thorn said it was disturbing that many young men believed it was okay to have nine drinks in one sitting.
''Clearly you can't expect to change behaviours if you don't first educate and inform,'' Mr Thorn said.