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Canada’s low-risk drinking guidelines provide recommendations for Canadians who want to reduce their risk of long-term health effects or their risk of injury and harm due to alcohol intake.  Below the recommendations are presented as two guidelines.

Guideline 1 states that women should drink no more than 10 drinks a week with no more than two drinks a day most days. Men should drink no more than 15 drinks a week with no more than three drinks a day most days. Men and women should have non-drinking days each week.

Guideline 2 states that on special occasions males should have no more than four standard drinks in one day in any three hour period, and females should have no more than three standard drinks in one day in any three hour period.

The percentage of individuals whose self-reported drinking exceeds the low-risk drinking guidelines is presented below. The impact that age and sex, as well as various social variables have on individuals’ alcohol consumption is also presented. 

Table 1: Percentage of Adults Exceeding Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines by Year, Age 19 and Above
 

2007

%(95% CI)

2008

%(95% CI)

2009

% (95% CI)

2010

%(95% CI)

2011

%(95% CI)

2012

%(95% CI)

Exceeds Guideline 1

22.3

(17.7-27.7)

25.5

(20.5-31.3)

27.1

(22.0-32.8)

28.4

(22.6-35.1)

16.8

(12.2-22.6)

23.3

(17.1-30.8)

Exceeds Guideline 2

38.2

(32.8-43.9)

40.5

(35.2-45.9)

45.3

(40.5-50.2)

40.8

(34.7-47.2)

30.3

(24.0-37.5)

33.7

(26.8-41.3)

Exceeds Guideline 1 or 2

42.7

(37.2-48.4)

42.6

(37.4-47.9)

49.2

(44.3-54.1)

48.3

(42.0-54.7)

32.3

(25.3-40.0)

37.9

(30.9-45.3)

Results indicate that the percentage of people who exceeded guideline 1 or 2 significantly decreased in 2011 from rates in 2009/2010.  When the guidelines are examined separately a significant difference in guideline 1 is found, with rates in 2011 being significantly lower than rates in 2010. For guideline 2, a significant decrease in rates in 2011 from 2009 is found. All other values were not significantly different. In general, 2011 alcohol consumption significantly decreased from levels reported in 2009/2010.  

Table 2: Percentage of Adults Exceeding Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines, 2007-2012, Age 19 and Above
 

Male

Percent (95% CI)

Female

Percent (95% CI)

Both Sexes

Percent (95% CI)

Age 19 to 44
Guideline 1
Guideline 2
Guideline 1 OR 2

32.9 (28.1-38.1)
60.8 (54.5-66.7)
60.9 (54.3-67.2)
21.6 (17.2-26.8)
46.0 (40.5-51.6)
46.9 (41.5-52.4)
27.4 (23.9-31.2)
53.7 (49.3-57.9)
54.1 (49.7-58.5)

Age 45 to 64
Guideline 1
Guideline 2
Guideline 1 OR 2

26.5 (20.9-33.0)
40.9 (34.8-47.4)
47.0 (40.2-54.0)
19.8 (15.1-25.4)
21.5 (16.7-27.1)
27.8 (22.7-33.6)
23.1 (19.2-27.5)
31.3 (27.0-35.9)
37.3 (32.9-41.9)

Age 65 and over
Guideline 1
Guideline 2
Guideline 1 OR 2

26.0 (20.2-32.8)
21.9 (16.2-28.8)
33.4 (26.5-41.1)
8.3 E (5.9-11.6)
2.2 (1.3-3.8)
9.7 (7.1-13.1)
16.3 (13.4-19.6)
11.1 (8.5-14.3)
20.3 (17.0-24.1)

All Ages (19+)
Guideline 1
Guideline 2
Guideline 1 OR 2

29.5 (26.1-33.2)
47.5 (43.9-51.1)
51.6 (47.7-55.4)
18.4 (15.8-21.4)
28.8 (25.7-32.1)
32.9 (29.8-36.2)
23.9 (21.6-26.3)
38.1 (35.8-40.6)
42.2 (39.8-44.6)

E Interpret with caution due to high sampling variability.

When alcohol consumption is examined by sex alone it is found that males are significantly more likely to exceed both guideline 1 and 2 than are females. When the impact of age on drinking is examined alone it is found that age does have an impact on alcohol consumption. Those aged 19 to 44 are significantly more likely to exceed guideline 1 in comparison to those aged 65 and older.  They are also significantly more likely to exceed guideline 2 in comparison to those in both older age groups. Those aged 45 to 64 are significantly more likely to exceed guideline 2 in comparison to those aged 65 and over. When age and sex are both considered females aged 19 to 44 are significantly more likely to exceed guideline 2 in comparison to both older female age groups. They are also significantly more likely to exceed guideline 1 in comparison to those aged 65 and older. Females aged 45 to 64 are also significantly more likely to exceed both guideline 1 and guideline 2 in comparison to those aged 65 and older. For males those aged 19 to 44 are significantly more likely to exceed guideline 2 in comparison to those in both of the older male age groups. For men there is no difference in the percentage of men who exceed guideline 1 by age group. 

Table 3: Percentage of Adults Exceeding Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines by Income Quintile, 2007-2012, Age 19 and Older
 

Quintile 1

Lowest Income

% (95% CI)

Quintile 2

% (95% CI)

Quintile 3

% (95% CI)

Quintile 4

% (95% CI)

Quintile 5

Highest Income

% (95% CI)

Exceeds Guideline 1

16.7

(12.7-21.8)

21.9

(17.1-27.4)

27.3

(21.6-33.8)

24.2

(19.2-30.1)

28.8

(23.8-34.2)

Exceeds Guideline 2

31.6

(26.3-37.3)

32.0

(26.5-37.9)

35.8

(30.8-41.2)

45.4

(39.2-51.7)

45.0

(39.8-50.2)

Exceeds Guidelines 1 or 2 

33.0

(27.5-39.0)

36.2

(30.8-42.1)

43.8

(38.4-49.2)

48.2

(41.9-54.6)

48.5

(43.3-53.8)

Income was found to impact alcohol consumption. When guideline 1 is examined it is found that those in the highest income quintile were significantly more likely to report that they consume enough alcohol to exceed this guideline in comparison to those in the lowest income quintile. When guideline 2 is examined it is found that those in the highest income quintiles (quintile four and five) are significantly more likely than those in the lowest income quintiles (quintile one and two) to exceed this guideline. When both guidelines are examined to see whether either is exceeded those in quintiles four and five are significantly more likely to exceed guidelines 1 or 2 than are those in quintile one. 

Table 4: Percentage of Adults Exceeding Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines by Education Level, 2007-2012, Age 19 and Older
 

Less Than Secondary School

% (95% CI)

Secondary School Graduate

% (95% CI)

Some Post-Secondary

% (95% CI)

Post-Secondary Graduate

% (95% CI)

Exceeds Guideline 1

21.4

(16.7-26.8)

22.9

(17.9-28.8)

23.1

(16.5-31.3)

24.6

(21.4-28.0)

Exceeds Guideline 2

27.6

(21.7-34.4)

36.3

(31.0-41.9)

50.8

(40.8-60.8)

39.0

(35.4-42.8)

Exceeds Guideline 1 or 2

34.1

(28.0-40.7)

41.0

(35.3-47.0)

53.7

(43.5-63.6)

42.4

(38.7-46.1)

There is no difference in the percentage of people who exceed guideline 1 by education level. When the percentage of people who exceed guideline 2 is examined those with some post-secondary education and post-secondary graduates are significantly more likely to exceed the guideline than are those in the less than secondary school category. There are no other significant differences between groups.

Table 5: Percentage of Adults Exceeding Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines by Minority Status, 2007-2012, Age 19 and Older
 

White

% (95% CI)

Minority

% (95% CI)

Exceeds Guideline 1

27.0

24.4-29.7

6.0 E

3.5-10.1

Exceeds Guideline 2

41.6

38.9-44.4

17.1 E

12.1-23.6

Exceeds Guideline 1 or 2

46.4

43.7-49.1

17.9 E

12.7-24.8

E Interpret with caution due to high sampling variability.

The percentage of people who exceed the guidelines does vary significantly based on racial background. Those with a white racial background are significantly more likely to exceed both guidelines than are those with a minority background. 

Table 6: Percentage of Adults Exceeding Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines by Immigration Status, 2007-2012, Age 19 and Older
 

Born in Canada

% (95% CI)

Immigrant

% (95% CI)

Exceeds Guideline 1

27.3

(24.6-30.1)

14.0

(10.4-18.5)

Exceeds Guideline 2

46.0

(43.1-48.9)

15.8

(12.7-19.5)

Exceeds Guideline 1 or 2

49.0

(46.2-51.8)

22.7

(18.4-27.6)

Whether an individual was born in Canada or is an immigrant was also found to significantly influence the percentage of people who exceed the guidelines. Those who were born in Canada were significantly more likely to exceed both guidelines than are those who immigrated to Canada. 

Data Notes

  1. Data Source: Canadian Community Health Survey, [2007,2008,2009,2010,2011,2012], Share File, Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care.
  2. To determine whether a guideline is exceeded this report uses the definition and calculation method    of the Association of Public Health Epidemiologists of Ontario. This information can be found on their website:  http://core.apheo.ca/index.php?pid=122
  3. The Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) collects data through participant self-report. Data collected through self-report can be biased due to inaccurate memory or because of social desirability. Social desirability happens when individuals answer questions in a manner that they think will be viewed favourably, and is more likely to occur when individuals are answering sensitive questions.
  4. 95% CI = 95% confidence interval. The 95% confidence interval provides a range within which we are 95% confident that the true population proportion (%) falls. If a stated result percentage is 18% with a 95% CI of 15.0-21.0%, we can be 95% confident that the true percentage lies within the range of 15.0% to 21.0%. The wider the confidence interval, the more variability there is, and the less precise the estimate.
  5. Not Stated and Don’t Know responses were excluded from analysis.
  6. Significant differences were determined based on non-overlapping confidence intervals.
  7. Understanding income quintiles used in this report: The Canadian Community Health Survey contains a variable that groups Windsor-Essex survey respondents into one of 10 income deciles. Each decile contains 10% of the sample population. So that the lowest or first decile contains the 10% of the population that has the lowest household income, and the highest or 10th decile contains the 10% of the sample population that has the highest household income. The calculation takes into account reported household income, low-income cut-off values, household size, and community size. For the purposes of this report, deciles were used to create quintiles for ease of analysis and interpretation (quintiles are fifths, and so each quintile contains 20% of the sample population). The lowest two deciles were combined to make the lowest quintile, the third and fourth deciles were combined to create the second lowest quintile, and so forth, with the two highest income deciles being combined to make the highest income quintile.
  8. A white ethnic background was defined as an individual who reported that their ethnicity was white. All other ethnicities were coded as minority.
  9. Immigrant was defined as someone who had ever immigrated to Canada.
  10. The geographical area of Windsor-Essex County represents the population of the entire county of Essex and includes all municipalities within the county.
  11. Age standardized statistics available upon request.