How much alcohol is too much?

More than one in 10 Australian women drinks too much alcohol. Do you know how much is safe?

How much alcohol is too much?

Did you know? More than 1 in 10 Australian women are endangering their long-term health with the amount of alcohol they drink. The age group most at risk? 55-64.

"It may be surprising to many people that women in their 50s are drinking at such risky levels," says Jean Hailes dietician Terrill Bruere, "but this is a busy time for many women and it's easy to fall into the habit of having a glass of wine (or three) in the evening to help unwind."

What few women realise is that one 200ml glass of wine is two ‘standard drinks’ – the most you should drink in any one sitting, according to the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). It also contains around 550 kJ of energy – more than a can of lemonade.

If you have more than two ‘standard drinks’ per day, and if you don’t regularly  have days with no alcohol at all, you’re putting yourself at risk of liver damage, certain cancers (including breast cancer), weight gain, depression, dementia and alcohol dependence.

To tie in with the FebFast campaign, Jean Hailes has compiled 10 tips that could help you break bad habits:

  1. Do an ‘audit’ of your alcohol habits – examine what, when and why you’re drinking
  2. Find other ways to relax or socialise – e.g. walking or talking with a friend
  3. Make special non-alcoholic drinks – e.g. fresh juice and berries mixed with mineral water, ice and mint – and serve in a favourite wine/champagne glass
  4. Start a night out with a non-alcoholic drink and make every other drink a non-alcoholic one
  5. Try low-alcohol drinks
  6. Avoid or spend less time in places where you know you find it hard to say “no”
  7. Try mixing with friends who don't drink
  8. Volunteer to be the ‘designated driver’
  9. Learn to make choices about what and when you drink, and do it in moderation
  10. Remember – small changes can have a big impact on your health

To find out if your drinking habits are healthy, why not answer this quick questionnaire

You can find a full guide to the alcohol content of standard drinks, a questionnaire to help you assess your own drinking habits, and tips to help you make a healthy change at

Published with the permission of Jean Hailes for Women's Health
1800 JEAN HAILES (532 642)

Data source: Australian Health Survey 2011-13, First results (ABS 2012)

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    To make a comment, please register or login
    22nd Feb 2013
    I don't drink at home on my own. At week-ends I go to a local club or pub with my cousin and her husband. As we both drive and do weekly shopping on the Saturday we have one glass of white wine and two wine glasses we then pour half the wine into each glass add a couple of cubes of ice and top up with water. We have both got used to this diluted drink. We ask for two half-halfs and the bartender laughs his head off each Saturday. They charge us for one wine! We are a couple of cheap drinkers! On Sundays I go to my cousin's, stay overnight and go home Monday. I like a red, a good red wine, so at lunch I have a glass of red and at the same time a glass of soda water. I then sip the wine and the water separately in order not to spoil the wine. My cousin does the same with white wine. Occasionally we have a second glass over lunch, but that's it. The rest of the day we both drink plenty of water in a wine glass with ice. My cousin and myself have never been big on alcohol and quite frankly have never needed it to have a good time.

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