Alcohol and your health

Alcohol and your health

The less alcohol you drink, the lower your risk of harm.

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

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.

If you drink, the Australian Alcohol guidelines recommend you have no more than 4 standard drinks a day and 10 standard drinks a week

If you are unsure what a standard drink is, you can learn more about how to measure a standard pour on our ‘Want to cut back?’ page here.

Want to know more about the Australian Alcohol Guidelines  and the science behind them? Head to the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) website.

The NHMRC recently reviewed the latest evidence on the health risks from drinking alcohol to arrive at the new guidelines released in December 2020.

Following the guidelines helps keep the risk of harm from alcohol low – but it does not remove all risk. Healthy adults who follow the advice have less than a 1 in 100 chance of dying from an alcohol-related condition.

There are also specific guidelines for people who are pregnant, planning a pregnancy or breastfeeding and for children under 18 years. You can learn more about alcohol, pregnancy and breastfeeding here and more about alcohol, children and young people here.

Learn more about the impacts of alcohol and options for monitoring your intake or cutting back below. 

Alcohol impacts

Long-term impacts of alcohol on your health

Drinking alcohol less often and remaining within the Australian Alcohol Guidelines reduces your risk of serious disease. 

Alcohol use increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. In the longer term, alcohol can cause abnormalities of heart rhythm, high blood pressure and weakened heart muscle, which can lead to heart attack and stroke. 

You can learn more about alcohol and cardiovascular disease here

Alcohol is also a cause of cancer. There is strong evidence that alcohol can cause breast cancer, as well as cancer of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, bowel 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 alcohol less often and remaining within the Australian Alcohol Guidelines reduces your risk of injury and other short-term harms.

Intoxication impairs co-ordination, slows reflexes and can lead to accidents and injury. It can result in hangovers, poor mood and increased anxiety. 

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

Stress, anxiety and mental health

Drinking less alcohol 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, as well as healthy ways to ease stress and anxiety here

Sleep disturbance

Drinking less alcohol 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 use the bathroom.

You can learn more about how alcohol affects sleep here

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

Page last updated on: 19 Oct 2021