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What is a standard drink size?

1 Sep 2021
News 4 min read
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When it comes to alcohol, over half of Australians are unaware of what a standard drink is, and many don't know the recommended amount to consume to remain at low risk of alcohol injury and disease.

Author: VicHealth works with health promotion experts to create a Victoria where everyone can enjoy better health and wellbeing.

 

Any information mentioned is accurate at the time this article was originally published (1 September 2021).

 

If you drink alcohol, regardless of the amount you drink, it’s important to understand exactly what a standard drink size is and how much you can consume before alcohol becomes a significant risk to your current and future health and wellbeing. 

In this article you'll learn: 

  • What a standard drink size is 
  • How many standard drinks you can consume to reduce your risk of negatively impacting your health 
  • What are the health risks if you consume more than the recommended amount of alcohol products 
  • Tips on cutting back on alcohol consumption  

Be Healthy was created by VicHealth to provide helpful tips and advice on how you and your family can stay healthy. You can read more Be Healthy articles here.

 

What is a standard drink? 

When looking into what a standard drink size is, it’s important to firstly remember this can vary depending on the type of drink you are consuming. It’s also important to note that although the same standard drink size is applicable to all genders, alcohol effects everyone differently. For more information on this, take a look at this blog on how alcohol affects the brain.  

Varying amounts of alcohol in different types of drinks can make it challenging to know how many standard drinks you’ve consumed. It may be surprising to hear that a typical beer or glass of wine is in fact more than a standard drink size.  

An Australian standard drink contains 10g of alcohol (12.5ml of pure alcohol). To put this in perspective, this means the following: 

Spirits 40% alcohol, 30ml nip/shot 

Wine 13% alcohol, 100ml average serving 

Sparkling wine 13% alcohol, 100ml

Full strength beer 4.9% alcohol, 285ml glass 

Light beer 2.7% alcohol, 425ml glass 

Cider 4.9% alcohol, 285ml glass 

 

What does this mean when it comes to typical alcohol serves?

Although the above guidelines are helpful to know, it can be confusing when working out how many standard drinks are in a schooner or how many standard drinks are in a glass or bottle of wine.  

Before looking into typical alcohol serves, it’s important to note that some wines and beers have a higher alcohol concentration, so it’s important to know what you're drinking.   

Tip: Be sure to check the alcohol content particularly on craft beer, cider and red wine. Percentage per class or bottle can vary significantly.

 

When it comes to your typical beer such as a lager, the following can be used as a guide: 

  • A pot/middy 285ml (4.8% alcohol) of full-strength beer contains 1.1 standard drinks
  • A pot/middy 285ml (3.5% alcohol) of mid-strength beer contains 0.8 standard drinks
  • A pot/middy 285ml (2.7% alcohol) of low-strength beer contains 0.6 standard drinks
  • A schooner 425ml (4.8% alcohol) of full-strength beer contains 1.6 standard drinks
  • A schooner 425ml (3.5% alcohol) of mid-strength beer contains 1.2 standard drinks
  • A schooner 425ml (2.7% alcohol) of low-strength beer contains 0.9 standard drinks

 

And when it comes to wine, the following can be used as a guide:

  • In an average glass of red wine 150ml (13.5% alcohol) served at a restaurant you’re consuming 1.6 standard drinks
  • In an average glass of white wine 150ml (11.5% alcohol) served at a restaurant you’re consuming 1.4 standard drinks
  • bottle of red wine 750ml (13.5% alcohol) has 8.0 standard drinks per bottle
  • bottle of white wine 750ml (12.5% alcohol) has 7.5 standard drinks per bottle

 

How many standard drinks can I consume?

Alcohol is one of the most widely used drugs in Australia and although legal, if consumed heavily, it can cause serious harm to our health. According to the National Health and Medical Research council (NHMRC) healthy adults should consume not more than 10 standard drinks per week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day (remember this doesn’t mean glasses). Sticking to these guidelines will reduce the risk of harm from alcohol.   

 

Tips of cutting back on alcohol consumption 

Cutting back on the amount of alcohol products we drink isn’t only good for our long-term health, drinking less booze can also help us lose weight and save money.  Here are some tips to cut back on alcohol from VicHealth CEO Dr Sandro Demaio:

Learn to reward yourself or unwind without alcohol – you can get active, revisit old hobbies or try a new one, get a massage, call a friend or relax with a book. 

Mix up your routine – go for a walk around the block instead of having a wine after work or replace your alcoholic beverage with a peppermint tea or soda water.

Focus on what you’ll gain by cutting back – save money, boost your memory and concentration, sleep better and have more energy and patience to do things you enjoy.

The Daybreak app from Hello Sunday Morning also helps – it provides confidential health advice and a supportive community to help people reduce their drinking and protect their health.  

 

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Artwork by Dexx (Gunditjmara/Boon Wurrung) ‘Mobs Coming Together’ 2022
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Artwork Credit: Dexx (Gunditjmara/Boon Wurrung) ‘Mobs Coming Together’ 2022, acrylic on canvas. Learn more about this artwork.