The objective of this paper was to determine separately the lifetime risk of drinking alcohol for chronic disease and acute injury outcomes as a basis for setting general population drinking guidelines for Australia. Relative risk data for different levels of average consumption of alcohol were combined with age, sex, and disease-specific risks of dying from an alcohol-attributable chronic disease. For injury, combinations of the number of drinks per occasion and frequency of drinking occasions were combined to model lifetime risk of death for different drinking pattern scenarios. A lifetime risk of injury death of 1 in 100 is reached for consumption levels of about three drinks daily per week for women, and three drinks five times a week for men. For chronic disease death, lifetime risk increases by about 10% with each 10-gram (one drink) increase in daily average alcohol consumption, although risks are higher for women than men, particularly at higher average consumption levels. Lifetime risks for injury and chronic disease combine to overall risk of alcohol-attributable mortality. In terms of guidelines, if a lifetime risk standard of 1 in 100 is set, then the implications of the analysis presented here are that both men and women should not exceed a volume of two drinks a day for chronic disease mortality, and for occasional drinking three or four drinks seem tolerable. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.