Men’s perceptions of risky drinking putting them in harm’s way

Research from health promotion foundation VicHealth and Monash University has found Victorian men are underestimating the harm from heavy drinking, with some believing the health risks begin at 30 drinks per session.


The study into masculine drinking cultures was prompted by a VicHealth survey that found 40 per cent of Victorian men regularly drink more than four standard alcoholic drinks in a session, putting themselves at risk of injury and diseases like cancer and stroke.


Yet the study found most men interviewed believed risky drinking meant downing anywhere between 10-30 drinks, with a small minority stating no amount of alcohol was too risky.


With Aussie men at higher risk from alcohol than women, the study looked at what influences groups of men to drink, highlighting the drinking culture among sports players and supporters, hospitality and office workers.


It found:

  • 59 per cent of the men surveyed said they downed more than five drinks in one session weekly and 38 per cent said they drank more than 11 drinks in one session monthly
  • While risky drinking was highly prevalent amongst all sub-groups hospitality workers had the highest rates of risky drinking attributed to access to free drinks and the perceived necessity for winding down post-work
  • Alcohol was described by the men as a way of ‘opening-up’ to each other and many felt they couldn’t socialise without drinking – even with close mates
  • Men described their drinking as autonomous yet were observed to be heavily influenced by other men in the group through round buying, being pressured to drink or making fun of those who chose ‘fruity’ drinks with lower alcohol content
  • Men were very hesitant to step in and intervene to help a mate who was drinking heavily unless he was trying to drive or drunk to the point of being completely incapacitated
  • Men described ‘inheriting’ drinking behaviours from their fathers and drinking being central to being an Australian man
  • Men were uncomfortable about the Australian drinking culture but felt powerless to change it.


The findings have prompted VicHealth to announce half a million dollars in new funding to try to change the way groups of men think about alcohol. The funding will be available for organisations who wish to change male risky drinking cultures in their communities.


Parliamentary Secretary for Health Anthony Carbines said it was important men felt like they had other options to socialise beyond drinking alcohol.


5 March 2019.