The Women and Alcohol Project aims to undertake a comprehensive population health needs analysis to:

  • Identify the reasons women aged 35-59 years who reside on the Northern Beaches of Sydney are drinking alcohol
  • Explore drinking behaviours that increase the risk of harm 
  • Implement strategies to reduce alcohol consumption within this group.

Between 2018 and 2020 the Women and Alcohol Project team have successfully conducted the comprehensive health needs analysis via three phases of research:

Phase I: Literature Review


We conducted a literature review  in 2018 to investigate available evidence on the relationship between midlife women and alcohol.  

Key findings included:

  • 2017-18 data showed NSLHD having the highest rate of alcohol-attributable hospitalisations for women in NSW, 35% higher the NSW average.
  • The Northern Beaches of NSLHD also stands out within the data, with an alcohol-attributable hospitalisation rate 40% higher than the NSW average in 2016-18.
  • Females aged 50-59 were the most likely to exceed lifetime risk drinking (drink 2 or more standard drinks per day) compared to all other female groups.

We found that there were concerning local health statistics among the group, yet limited research and evidence on why women aged 35-59 drink alcohol at quantities that increase the risk of harm.

As a result, there is an absence of interventions that address this issue.

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Phase I: Literature Review

Phase II: Qualitative Focus Groups


Six semi-structured focus groups were conducted with a total of 47 women aged 35 to 59 years who resided on the Northern Beaches attending. A thematic analysis was conducted on the transcribed data identifying four prominent themes:

  1. Short-term release and escape turned habit
  2. “It brings us together”: creating and strengthening social connections
  3. “Go on have another one”: lived experience of judgement and pressure to fit in
  4. “You don’t feel like it’s going to kill you right now”

Read more:

Phase II: Focus Group Design Summary
Phase II: Focus Group Findings Summary

Phase III: Quantitative Online Survey


Data analysis was conducted inclusive of the 583 eligible participants who completed the online survey. Cohort frequency and segmentation by level of risky drinking based on the validated alcohol screening tool, AUDIT C, was used to describe survey findings. 


Other key findings:

  • Women predominately drink in social situations and a large percentage of moderate and high risk drinkers are drinking at home (67%, 83% respectively).
  • Moderate and high risk drinkers are largely influenced by their peers in social situations.
  • 59% of high-risk drinkers want to cut back on their consumption.
  • Women predominately drank because ‘I enjoy it/I like it’, to be social and to help chill out/to relieve stress.
  • 81% reported all gatherings they attended had alcohol present and 60% reported all child-orientated gatherings they attended had alcohol present.
  • Women do not find health information confusing and know the recommended guidelines, yet still choose to drink, with 39% being unsure and 37% agree, that red wine can be good for health.

Read more:

Phase III: Survey Design Summary
Phase III: Survey Key Findings

Phase IV: Intervention


Moving forward, the accumulated findings will assist with the investigation, development and implementation of identified strategies to reduce alcohol consumption within this group.