Heavy drinkers are downing even more alcohol than they were 10 years ago, sinking an average of 45 standard alcoholic drinks every week, a study released today shows.
The study shows the top 10 per cent of heaviest boozers drink three times the amount of alcohol as the average Australian does and 5 per cent more than a decade ago.
At the same time, an analysis of four national surveys of 20,000 people over the past 10 years found lighter drinkers were drinking even less and more people were abstaining from alcohol.
Michael Livingston, from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, said the findings could explain a sharp increase in alcohol- related injuries and assaults.
"The basic assumption is that when consumption changes, it changes among everyone," Dr Livingston said.
"We are seeing the opposite - heavy drinkers drinking more and everyone else drinks less.
"These guys are drinking a lot more, an average of 30 litres a year and three times more than the population average. There's a good chance people are not aware or think they are not heavy drinkers."
Dr Livingston said though the 5 per cent increase in alcohol intake among heavy drinkers over a decade appeared small, it was a change that would have a strong impact on the risk of illness and injury.
Professor of Health Policy at Curtin University Mike Daube said binge drinking was a big concern.
"We seem to be developing a two-tier drinking culture, in which more are sensible about alcohol - but we are also seeing more binge drinking," he said.
Dr Livingston said targeted approaches were needed to cut heavy drinkers' consumption.
Another study being released by the NDARC today reveals that differences in drinking levels among men and women have virtually disappeared over the past century.
Men born in the early 1900s were three times more likely to drink alcohol than women.
Women born in the 1990s are almost as likely to drink alcohol as men.