Australia

Campaign to tackle coronavirus alcohol habits with many Australians drinking daily

A new campaign seeks to raise awareness of how to break bad habits formed during COVID lockdowns. Source: AAP

A new Alcohol and Drug Foundation survey has found 12 per cent of Australians have been drinking every day since the coronavirus outbreak began.

Many Australians have picked up new habits during the coronavirus lockdown with almost one in eight drinking alcohol every day since the pandemic began, a survey has found.

The Alcohol and Drug Foundation quizzed more than one thousand people with a concerning number reporting they were drinking more than usual.

One in 10 people reported consuming more than 10 standard drinks per week, increasing the risk of alcohol-related injury and diseases like cancer.

Professor Terry Bowles, a habit formation expert from the University of Melbourne, said many people have picked up new habits since the pandemic began.

"Routine behaviours, which can have a profound impact on our lives, do not take a long time to form," Prof Bowles said.

"So, as restrictions are gradually lifted across Australia and we emerge from months of isolation, we have passed the threshold of time required to establish new habits."

Nearly one in five people said they wished they'd drunk less during the COVID-19 lockdown with half hoping to cut down in the future.

The survey results come as the foundation launches a new campaign on Sunday, Break the Habit, to raise awareness of how quickly new habits can become embedded.

It will encourage people to consider their recent drinking patterns, help them recognise problem signs and show them how to turn problem habits around.

The campaign will also highlight that it takes just 66 days on average to form a habit, about the same period many Australians have spent in lockdown.

Even small increases to the amount of alcohol drunk can become harder to shift over time.

Alcohol and Drug Foundation chief executive Erin Lalor said it was unsurprising people had looked for different ways to cope.

"The last few months have been incredibly hard for everyone, particularly for those who have lost work, social connectedness and ... lost loved ones. We've all been trying our best under challenging, never-before-seen circumstances."

The longer a habit is left to form the harder it can be to change, Dr Lalor said.

She encouraged people to reach out for practical support.

"Even small steps such as introducing alcohol free days into your week, or having one less drink a day, can have a powerful impact."

Readers seeking support can contact Lifeline crisis support on 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 and Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 (for young people aged 5 to 25). 

More information is available at Beyond Blue.org.au and lifeline.org.au

Metropolitan Melbourne residents are subject to Stage 4 restrictions and must comply with a curfew between the hours of 8pm and 5am.

During the curfew, people in Melbourne can only leave their house for work, and essential health, care or safety reasons.

Between 5am and 8pm, people in Melbourne can leave the home for exercise, to shop for necessary goods and services, for work, for health care, or to care for a sick or elderly relative.

The full list of restrictions can be found here. All Victorians must wear a face covering when they leave home, no matter where they live.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

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